The other day Lisa Hendy sent me a request from an adoptive mother, who wanted to buy a book to help her tell her adopted child how he entered their family. I found some good pointers for parents at this site. It also includes books for children. My personal favorite is Max Lucado's book, You Are Special, since it works well for families with both biological and adoptive children (available through my adoption blog resource list: http://mommymonsters.blogspot.com/).
To be honest, I haven't spent much time researching this particular area of adoption for one simple reason: From the beginning, my children wanted to hear their own story, over and over and over again. The most requested one begins: "Tell me about the time you were lonely."
Once upon a time, there was a lady who was very lonely. So her angel went out, and searched far and wide to find her husband, someone who had a special place in his heart that was just for her. They fell in love and got married, and their hearts grew and grew, until they had two special places in their hearts: One for a brown-eyed girl, and one for a blue-eyed boy.
When no babies came to fill those spaces, their angel went out again. One day there was a knock on their door (knock, knock, knock). "Come with me," said the angel. "I've found your family." So we got in our van and drove and drove, and there you were at your foster family's house. Christopher was watching "PowerPuff Girls" with his sister, and Sarah was sitting in the baby swing. We walked in, and the brown-eyed baby laughed and kicked her feet. The blue-eyed boy jumped up and hugged me. "Mommy!" he said. And then we all went home.
Your big sister needed a family, and so we took her with us, too. But God had put a space for her in the heart of another mommy and daddy, and soon their angel came looking for her. It took a while for your big brother's angel to find his family – but we kept praying, and God always listens to the prayers of children. Now you all have a forever family that will love you no matter what, as long as you live.
We are your "forever family." No one can ever take you out of our hearts, because God put you there. No one can ever take you away, because the day we adopted you the judge said you belong to us forever. Even when you are old, we will still belong to each other. You and your siblings will always love each other, because you were born into the same family. Your birth parents love you too, even though they couldn't take care of you. So God gave us to each other, to fill our hearts to the top with love. He gave us to each other to care for each other, and to share God's love with each other and with the whole world.
Here's the best part: We are all part of God's "forever family," too! Jesus came to earth to make us part of God's family through adoption. You became part of God's "forever family" the day you were baptized. One day we will all go to be with our family in heaven: God the Father, and Mother Mary, and all the angels and saints. One day our angel will come and take us to heaven, where we'll never be sad or lonely ever again. ("And where we'll get to play Frisbee with our dog Missy again, and see our birth family as much as we want," adds Christopher.)
I share this story with you first because — well, because I love to tell this story as much as my children love to hear it. The second reason is to give you an idea of how simple the story can be. Here are some additional tips to help you create your own story.
Emphasize adoption is permanent. Children need to know they were loved from the very beginning, and that they never have to worry about your disappearing like their birth parents did.
Acknowledge the bond that the child will always have with his or her birth family (though he may have conflicted feelings about that bond). This is hard, but important because the child senses this instinctively (or will when he gets older). Try not to vilify the first/birth parents: If the child believes his first parents were "bad people," the child will think of himself as "bad," too.
Tell the gentle truth about why their birth parents didn't keep them — but make it clear that it wasn't the child's fault that he needed new parents. He wasn't bad, or ugly, or too much trouble. Focus instead on the fact that the birth parents loved the child, even though they couldn't take care of him (or her).
Integrate faith and fact. This will help child see the "big picture" of adoption. God had a plan for that child — just as He has a plan for each of us — before she was born (Ps 139:13).
Don't gloss over real feelings. There are going to be times when your child feels lonely, or angry, or misses his birth family. Use the story as a "jumping off" point to talk about these feelings, as Christopher does in this story to express his feelings about losing his beloved dog (who died a year ago in an accident) and his birth parents.
Step outside the story and give child an opportunity to react to what's going on. Consider having your children draw pictures or create a special scrapbook with their adoption story, to revisit again and again.
Create your own storybook. A special resource called Illustory is available through my adoption blog, Mommy Monsters Inc (http://mommymonsters.blogspot.com/). This is great for those who aren't confident in their storytelling ability, or who are concerned that you won't be able to tell the story the same way over and over.
Draw from your journal from those first months. If you didn't keep a journal, start one now and try to recapture as many images and stories as you can, before they slip away!
Always draw the child back to his relationship with God. That is the one truly permanent relationship the child will ever have. As we cultivate that relationship with God in our own lives, we find it easier to strike a balance between the roles we have been called to play in the lives of other people.
At the end of the story, close with a simple prayer, thanking God for each other, and thanking Him that we are part of His family, too.