Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Parenting an Adopted Child

Parenting an adopted child is a difficult, rewarding process.  There are so many variables in this topic that it is impossible to touch on all of them.  A few important ones are talking about adoption, assimilating an adopted child into a family, and issues of race, ethnicity, and culture.

Talking about Adoption

When parenting an adopted child, it is important to have open communication about the issue of adoption, but even more so it is important for the parents to show the child that he or she is a part of the family.
Talking about the adoption process with a young child is called telling an ‘adoption story’
According to Parents Magazine, one example of an outline of an adoptions story is as follows:

·      He was born the same way as everybody else in the world.
·      He grew inside another woman, but that woman wasn't ready or able to be a mother to any baby at that time.
·      You wanted to be a parent very much.
·      You adopted him and he will be your child forever.

As children get older, they often become more inquisitive about the adoption.  Parents are presented with many questions from their child that they may not necessarily know the answer to about the biological family/parent(s).  Although there are many different suggestions about how to answer these questions, the overwhelming theme seems to be honesty. 
Adopted children have different reactions to the issue of being adopted.
Children cope with these feelings in a variety of ways: some are open and talk about their feelings, some are defensive and use denial to cope, some are angry and disruptive, [and] some think that adoption is no big deal (Parents Magazine)

This is an award winning picture book about adoption.

Assimilating an Adopted Child into the Family

Sometimes, families will have both biological children and adopted children, or multiple adopted children.  This can present both unique challenges and opportunities for assimilating a child into an adoptive family.
An important strategy for parents in this situation is to avoid comparing the siblings.  Also paying individual attention to each child is important.  Reassurance that, yes, they really are brothers and/or sisters is also important. (
One strategy for assimilating a child into a family is to honor the day he or she was adopted with a celebration called ‘adoption day’ or ‘gotcha day’.  This is sort of like a birthday and provides an opportunity for a family, or even an extended family and/or network of friends to show a child how much they are glad he or she is part of the family and to be open about the adoption. (Adoptive Families Magazine)

Issues of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity

There are many opinions on whether interracial adoption is desirable, and there are many reasons why someone would choose to adopt a child of a different race, but once a child is adopted and there is a racial difference, no matter what the situation, there are certain ways to help a child and family become cohesive.  It is important for the parents to understand this issue, be on the same page, and work through it with the child as well as any other member of the family.  Even if there is no racial difference between an adoptive family and a child, there are usually ethnic differences and almost always cultural differences between an adoptive family and the biological family.  Sometimes people choose to adopt siblings, when this is possible, or two children from similar backgrounds in order to create continuity and a stronger cultural identity within the family.
Cultural Identity is an important factor to encourage a child to develop and so is cohesion with the adoptive family.
This is a picture book about interracial adoption that sends the message that even if you look different from someone, you are still very much the same.

There is a lot of difficulty involved in some interracial/international adoptions.  This is a clip from the movie Adoption by Barb Lee. <> This movie is about the adoption of two Asian girls, one who is Chinese and very young, the other is a thirty-two-year-old who was adopted as a child from Korea.

Discussion Questions:
1. What do you think some of the struggles of being a parent to an adoptive child might be?
2. Do you think that parents should talk to their children about adoption? When? How?
3. Do you know someone who was adopted, or were you adopted yourself? If so what was the process of assimilating into the family like?
4. How do you think parents should deal with the issue of interracial or international adoption?
5. What did you think about the story presented in the video clip from Adopted?
6. Do you have any other thoughts or opinions about parenting adopted children?

posted by Cassandra Knox, Nancy Chen, Kendall Eifler, Jessica Powell, Courtney Vataha



  1. I think that a big struggle that a parent of an adopted child would have is wondering if one day your child is going to leave you and claim that he or she wants to know their REAL parents. I think that parents who adopt must worry that as the child gets older they will want to know more and more about their biological parents and maybe conciser blood relations more important than who raised them. I think this is probably why some parents choose not to tell their children that they are adopted. I think they must worry that their adopted child will one day resent them because they are not their biological parents.

  2. I believe that being an adoptive parent is one of the toughest types of parents. They have gone through hardship trying to become parents and having to try and do their job to "someone else's child" may be difficult. In my experience, the adoptive mothers and fathers that I know love their children and do not treat them as if they are not biological. Each situation is unique, and whatever works for the parents and children is best way to have the relationship. Adoptive parents have to be able to adapt.

  3. I agree with Cassandra. I can only imagine that a child that has been adopted would wanted to know their real parents or even leave the adoptive parents. This could potentially be very upsetting to the parents who adopted the child.

    I really enjoyed reading this post and seeing all of the pictures and the clip from the film.

    I do think that parents should talk to their children about being adopted. This way, they have an honest trust with the adoptive parents and can make their own decisions about how they feel.

    Carolyn Kaufman

  4. I think that a Caucasian parent adopting a child of another race will likely alienate the child if they take a "color-blind" stance to the racial difference of their family. The child will not experience their life in a "color-blind" way, living in American society. Particularly if the child is raised in an all white area, with an all white family, it would make sense for the child to feel isolated because of their racial difference. White parents, however, have not had to handle racial prejudice, and are therefore often very ill-equipped and uncomfortable discussion race. I don't mean to sound harsh, but I think that Caucasian parents have to be very aware of the dynamics of white privileged and racism when adopting a child of another race, and not undermine the child experience of facing discrimination.