Talking to Children in our Family about Adoption Part I: The Booklet

Over a month ago, we hosted Rocky’s first birthday party.  It was a super fun celebration for friends and family that deserves its own post.  I was tearing up the baby dance floor with my Boo in my arms to some Yo Gabba Gabba tunes, “There’s a party in my tummy!  So yummy, so yummy…” when my friend’s little girl asked me a question.  ”Lacie, so Rocky is your baby, right?”  This child knew nothing of the adoption, she was just ripping up the dance floor, trying to put everyone together.  I replied, “Yes, you are right.  Rocky is my baby, the cutest baby in the WORLD!”  We laughed and kept on boogeying.  Then, my seven-year-old cousin chimed in, “Well, he’s not her REAL baby.  He wasn’t in her tummy.  His REAL mommy is over there![insert the startling sound of a record scratching and my heart beating out of my chest]  Maya, Rocky’s birth mom was standing right there snapping pictures of all of us.  Luckily, we have an awesome relationship with her and she didn’t seem to be phased.  I explained, “I am Rocky’s real mommy.  You are right, Maya is his birth mommy. He was in her tummy.” Then I swiftly steered the conversation in another direction.  Some things are just too heady for the dance floor.

I kept beating myself up.  I was rattled in the moment.  But the more I thought about it, the clearer the real issue became.  The children in my family love Rocky as much (or more because he’s a super cute baby) as they do any other member of our family.  My little cousin just didn’t have the vocabulary to express what she was thinking.  Why hadn’t I had this discussion with the kids earlier?  As we all know, hindsight is twenty-twenty.

I contacted my cousins (the mothers of the girls with whom I needed to talk) and we set up a lunch date.  Then,  I went on a mission to create a tool to help me talk to the kids in my family, and eventually our son, about adoption.  Good teachers know that kids learn better when they are actively engaged, therefore I needed to create an interactive tool.  I also wanted to start with what they already know, another teacher tidbit.   Plenty of pictures were also a must.

Here are the results.

I uploaded the booklet and had a copy for each girl and for me printed at our local UPS store. I put the girls’ booklets in the mail so that they can go through them with their parents before our lunch date.  They each got their own special package, all decked out with stickers.  Kids of all ages love stickers, it’s a known fact.

I wanted to keep it as a Word document so I can change it and update the pictures depending upon my audience.  It will be nice for each child on our family to have a customized book where they see themselves as an important part of our adoption.  I also included a final page where they can write any questions they still have and a place to write a special message to Rocky.  It will also be good for Rocky to be in on these talks.  He’ll be able to answer questions as he gets older and his adoption story will always be an important part of who he is.  The more we practice this, the more comfortable we will all be when spontaneous situations arise.

We are having our lunch date on Saturday.  The girls will bring their booklets and we will read and talk about each page.  They will be able to ask questions and enjoy our time together.  It was important for me to set apart this special time for them and not pull them aside at a family event.  I didn’t want them to feel like they were in trouble for something.  I am looking forward to our date.   I am really excited to see the pictures that they’ve drawn.

We strive to have an open and respectful adoption.  If I want all the members of our family to be as comfortable talking about our adoption as I am, then it’s my job to give them the tools that they need and to open up the lines of communication.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

*As always, click on the images to make them larger.

*I got the idea for the chart in my booklet from the following, very informative link from Adoptive Families magazine.


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28 Responses to Talking to Children in our Family about Adoption Part I: The Booklet

  1. AWE-some! That is amazing. Good job, mama!

    • Ms. Pollywog says:

      Thanks, Julie! That means a lot coming from you because, frankly you say and do awesome things like it’s your job.

  2. Ashley says:

    Great idea! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  3. Sara says:

    The booklet is absolutely fantastic! You’re really brilliant. You know that, right? Good job!

  4. Bev says:

    This is so incredible–you are incredible!! I can’t wait to hear how the lunch date goes :)

    • Ms. Pollywog says:

      Seriously? Incredible? I want to kiss you, too! MWAH, MWAH! You are so nice, Bev. Glad you liked the book.

  5. Tanya says:

    This is beautiful. I’ve thought of doing something similar for my nieces, nephews and friends’ kids about embryo adoption…

    • Ms. Pollywog says:

      You should absolutely do it, Tanya. I think that it’s going to be something that I’ll be glad I did and that I can whip it out and update it whenever I need it.

  6. Amber says:

    Lacie, this is awesome!! Love the booklets! What a great way to kindly and gently communicate with your families!!

    • Ms. Pollywog says:

      Thanks Amber. Since you are one of my open adoption idols, I am psyched that you like the booklets.

  7. Kimberly says:

    This is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing! Be prepared for the ‘if _ and _ were not ready to be a mom and dad, then why did they grow a baby in her tummy” question! ;-) So impressed with yourbook!

    • Ms. Pollywog says:

      Ummm, yeah, what about THAT question, huh? I am hoping that by having the books ahead of time that their parents that can handle that question if it comes up. LOL!

      But, I will practice my response just in case. “Sometimes babies start growing before people are ready to do all of the things that moms and dads do for babies and kids.” How does that sound?

  8. Laura says:

    Way to go, Mama! What a great idea!!

  9. Briana's Mom says:

    That is such an awesome idea! LOVE! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  10. What a fantastic job you did healing the split brought about by the word “real!” I love the way you set out to educate rather than scold, and that you took your time to figure out the best way to do this.

    Big, big kudos, Lacie!

    • Ms. Pollywog says:

      Thanks Lori! Since you are the web’s best resource on open adoption, I am excited that you like this idea.

  11. Monika says:

    What a great idea! I’m a birth mom in an open adoption and had the opportunity to talk to my older niece (she’s 9). She made a comment about me being my daughter’s “real mom” and I gently corrected her. I said that yes, I’m my daughter’s “real mom” but her adoptive mom is also real because I gave her my blessing (and the legal right) to be my daughter’s mom. I should share this with my daughter’s mom. I bet she’d get a kick out of this idea!

    • Ms. Pollywog says:

      Hi Monika!
      I’ve followed you for a while so it’s exciting to see you here! You should absolutely share this! I looked up all kinds of resources on how to talk to kids about adoption but what I was finding was mostly geared towards the adoptee. So, I just did my best to address all of the important roles that the we each play in our adoption in a respectful and kid-friendly way. I am glad that you like the results.

  12. Peach says:

    Kids are so pure. Adoption is so complicated.

  13. What a fantastic way to handle the situation! I love the way you approach “realness’ in the book. I hope the conversation today went well!

  14. Really liked this lifebook!!

  15. luna says:

    I also love the book and how you handled the situation with such strong grace. kudos!

  16. Amy says:

    I love this idea! I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain adoption to my stepsons. I read your post and was very excited about bringing this home. But then I realized that it doesn’t explain their relationship to me. Before adoption entered our family, the difference between “mom” and “stepmom” was that they came from mom’s tummy. But now I have to explain that the new baby also won’t come from my tummy, but I will still be its mom. It’s all very confusing!

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