You are currently viewing Maybe Every Lie Isn’t Dangerous: Why Honesty About Adoption Matters

Maybe Every Lie Isn’t Dangerous: Why Honesty About Adoption Matters

I’m not shaming parents for the lies they tell their children. For example:

  • Acceptable lie. “When the bedroom door is locked at night, it’s because Mommy and Daddy are wrapping presents.”
  • Understandable lie. “The car won’t start if the seat belts aren’t buckled.”
  • Forgivable lie: “I have no idea why the iPad can’t connect to YouTube anymore.”
  • Untruth that will come back to bite you. “The balloons at the grocery store are just decorations.”

But don’t lie about adoption. People often ask, “How to tell a child about adoption?”  You don’t “tell your child about adoption.” You just recognize they are adopted.

Consider the following advice from adopted individuals when you think about telling your child about adoption.

Maya--Green Queen

My mom saved this green queen to show my birth mother,” Maya said. “Mom told me that my birth mother likes to draw, too. I always knew there was a birth mother. Did I always understand exactly what that meant? I don’t know. I just can’t remember not knowing about adoption. My mom told me about my adoption before I knew speech.

"When people ask me 'How to tell a child they're adopted,' I say, "They should always know."

Liam -- Bedtime Stories

About once a month, my parents read me a bedtime story about adoption. And we talked. They let me choose which stories I liked best. Some of the ones I still see at my parents’ house and remember are:

“Adoption is Both.” This book talked about how adoption is happy and sad, and I understood that my birth mother was sad sometimes.

“The Invisible String” talked about always being connected.

“A Place in My Heart” Talks about a little girl who knows both mothers will love her.

Chloe--Adoption was Normal. No Big Reveals Later in Life.

My APs were my parents, and I felt being adopted made me special and unique. I was happy to be adopted. I felt sorry for kids who only had one mother.

I never felt like they were hiding anything; there were no big reveals later in life. Finding my birth family was awesome, but my parents were always, ALWAYS, my parents. Trust me, the earlier you start talking about it, the easier it all becomes. You won’t feel like you’re fumbling for words or anything – it’ll just be like talking about your favorite color!

Ezra--Don’t Talk About Your Child’s Story to Random People

My parents never made a big deal out of adoption. I don’t even remember a time before knowing! It was just another part of my story, like having brown eyes or loving dinosaurs.

We’d always talk about adoption, like when we saw a character adopted in a book or movie. My parents would point it out and say, “See, that kiddo’s adopted, just like you!”

BUT don’t talk about it as if it is your child’s identity. It’s just part of who I was. I didn’t want to have to talk about my birth mother and how I felt about adoption to just everyone. I wanted to talk about the soccer games I was playing and then later about football and then even later about the car I was buying. I didn’t want to talk about why I was “given up for adoption.”

Danie--Don’t Wait Until They Understand the Language.


“I love you,” you say to your child long before they know what the phrase means. Your two-year-old will even repeat, “I love you,” without knowing what he said. So it’s fine if you talk about the child’s birth mother and how she loves her even if the words aren’t understood. Eventually the words will make sense.

Lyssa--Adoption Was Normal

Hanging out with friends, I’d hear one sibling insult the other by saying, “You’re adopted.” You know, trying to hurt the younger sibling.

So, of course, I’d say. “Yeah, I am adopted. This made things awkward for THEM. They would say, “Oh, I’m sorry. There’s nothing wrong with being adopted.”

And I never felt there was. To me it was normal. My parents made it normal.  They didn’t care if I asked questions.


How to Tell a Child They're Adopted?
Just make adoption normal.

Clara--Don’t Leave All the Conversation to the Child

Please don’t assume that because your child doesn’t mention adoption that, they don’t want to talk about it. As adoptive parents, you need to be open and ready to discuss adoption, even the tough parts. Make it easy for your child to talk to you; don’t make them feel like they have to pull information out of you. Be proactive in addressing their questions and feelings.

I was not the result of a loving relationship. My parents didn’t explain that to me when I was little, but eventually, they gradually added details until I realized the situation. As far as I know, they never gave this information to anyone else. But I did know. Which is good because eventually, I would have heard it from my birth mother, and I think the surprise would have been harder having to deal with her emotions telling me while also being surprised. You can tell a child he’s adopted before they understand what the word adopted means.