Tag Archives: blended families

How To Tell Your Child’s Adoption Story

Explaining a child’s adoption story can be overwhelming for the adoptive parents. Some don’t know when is a good time to tell their child, while others are unclear on how to tell them. For starters, there is no right or wrong way to discuss adoption with your child. However, it is best to start introducing positive adoption language as soon as possible. Your child should be familiar with adoption language because it is a part of their story & their identity. Down below are a few tips to help you tell your child their adoption story.

How & When to Explain

Make sure to take your child’s age and maturity into consideration. The story should be simple and age appropriate. Give them details that you can elaborate on as they get older. The details should be truthful, so that you don’t contradict yourself later. Share the excitement with an upbeat tone. Understand what your child is asking. Let them know that it’s okay to ask questions and talk about their adoption at any time. Don’t be afraid to revisit topics you may have explained at an earlier time. This will happen as your child’s curiosity grows and their understanding develops over time.

Ages 0-4

            This is the best time to start sharing your child’s adoption story. Let’s face it kids love being the center of attention. They’ll be more eager to listen to their own story. Whether it’s the story of their birth or the story of the magnificent time they made your family whole, they want to hear it. The meaning of adoption doesn’t quite sink in yet, so keep the story basic. Let them know they were born the same way everyone else is. They grew in their mother’s tummy, but she couldn’t parent at that time. Explain that you wanted to be a parent very much, so you adopted him/her. Include that their birth and adoption were both awesome events that will never be forgotten.

Ages 5-11

            Within this age group, the concept of adoption and having two sets of parents becomes clear. As your child gets older and mentally develops you may notice them experiencing more complex feelings of loss and feeling different. Make sure to have open dialogue with your child. It is essential to see how they are putting the story together. Your child’s stage of development, emotional & intellectual maturity may determine how they piece the information together. Answer any questions regarding their birth parents appropriate for their age. If any misconceptions of their birth parents form, offer alternative views to address the situation.


Ages 12-18

Around this age children in general begin pulling away from their parents to form their own identity. Children who have been adopted may have a difficulty forming an identity if there is any information lacking. Parents can help by understanding the need for this information. Help them attain the information they are searching for. Also, give them the freedom to explore it. As for any age, make sure to keep the line of communication open. It is vital to hear what your child is saying and what they are asking. Allow them to share their feelings with you. Help them with any struggles they may be having regarding their adoption or their birth parents.


Time is of The Essence

When talking to your child about their adoption story timing is everything. It’s best to start as early as possible. Don’t let your child’s adoption story be a family secret. If you didn’t tell their story when they were young children, start telling them soon. It is important to let them know that they can come to you with any questions they may have. Always leave an open line of communication regarding their adoption or birth parents. As children get older, their questions may become more complex. Be open and accepting to whatever they may want or need to know.


September 2012 Book Reviews

All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

How I Became A Big Brother by Dave Moore– This is a cute little book that can help a family explain adoption to a biological child. The book focuses on adoption of an older child but you may be able to use it to explain the adoption of an infant.  My only problem with this book is that it only focuses on a boy becoming an older brother to another boy.   amazon.com price $12.95- paperback  

How I Became A Big Sister by Dave Moore  The exact same story but with different pictures as How I Became a Big Brother, and I have the same issue, it only focuses on a girl becoming a big sister to another girl.  You could reword it or use it as a spring board to talk about the adoption of a brother or a sister. The story also involves taking a trip to pick up the sisters, so you may also be able to use this to explain a international adoption to a biological child.  amazon.com price $12.95

That’s my brother,That’s my sister by Ratna Jalisatgi– This book is a little better as it explains why a child doesn’t look like the rest of his family.  A family of butterflies adopts a young bee and he explains how they are his sister and brother.  This book can also help explain adoption to biological siblings.  The only problem I had was a little wording when explaining that “their mom adopted me.” which I think should have said “our mom” adopted me. – amazon.com price $8.50

Caught (Missing) by Margaret Peterson Haddix – The fifth book in a great time travel series that focuses on several important children who were pulled out of time and adopted by every day citizens in modern day.  One day they all receive a note to meet at a certain time.  What they get is the adventure of a lifetime as they are sent back in time and caught up in all types of mysteries.    amazon.com price $10.98 HC  – 9.99 Kindle edition – Paperback to be release in April 2013

June 2012 Book Reviews

All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.


Unkiditional Love by Dorothy Martin Neville & Tom Russo– Writing alternating chapters UnKiditional Love gives you the parenting perspectives of both a mother and a father.  This unique style of writing and responding to what the other has written on a subject really helps open your eyes and think more about your parenting style.  A great book that touches on many different aspects of parenting. Blending families, adoption, teenagers, toddlers and more.  This is a unique book on parenting that shows that while we are all not perfect we can do a good job at parenting.  amazon.com price $16.95- paperback  $9.99 for kindle version…or you can borrow a copy of this book for free on your kindle if you are a prime member. 

A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager  An adorable tale of a little girl with two daddies.  Her friends ask her questions about what its like to have two daddies. Fun illustrations tell the story while the two kids play showing that her family is the same as anyone else’s.  This is a great book for lgbt parents and for anyone wanting to teach tolerance and that just because a family looks different doesn’t mean it functions differently.   amazon.com price $8.95

A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager– While at the beach two other kids ask a little boy about having two mommies.  Just like A Tale of Two Daddies, this book has little kids asking questions about what its like to have two mommies.  Another great book with fabulous illustrations from Vanita Oelschlager – amazon.com price $8.95



Blending Families: How to Make it Work

Many parents who adopt as singles or as married couples may find themselves with new partners at some point.  If your new partner has children you will then become a blended family. Tv’s The Brady Bunch portrayed a “blended” family sharing good natured laughs and occasional quarrels, but in reality blended families can face serious obstacles on the way to happiness.

You may not be able to completely avoid the rough spots, but there are steps you can take to ease the transition from two separate families into one harmonious one.

  • If possible, move into a new home. This helps decrease the number of turf battles that can crop up when one family moves into the home of another family.
  • Do things as a family. Make a point of eating dinner together every night, for example, so everyone feels included in the new family.
  • Develop new traditions. They can be celebrations unique to your new family, like a special dinner during report-card season or dessert in the living room.
  • Pay attention to your children’s needs. Children want to feel safe, secure and loved. Make a point of listening to their concerns so you can reassure them.
  • Make rules clear. Kids need limits, even though they struggle against them at times. Keep your list of rules short and simple and enforce them consistently.
  • Don’t be afraid of the past. Encourage each other to share past family histories. Its a good way to get to know and understand each other, just as couples who are dating begin to share their pasts.
  • Be patient. The transition won’t take place overnight. Give everyone time to adjust. And don’t assume that every disagreement has its roots in the nature of your blended family. Some arguments are just arguments.
  • Respect your partner. When you disagree, stay calm and try not to let it spill over into your relationship with the rest of the family. Your children need to see that you and your partner are a team.
  • Communicate. Don’t let issues simmer. Talk about your feelings honestly, and don’t punish children for expressing ambivalence or doubts.

Family Diversity in the Classroom

diversity-filmWith summer officially over, and another school year in full swing, our attention has turned from recreation to education. Time once again for “Back to School” night, where we hear about the assignments our children will be working on in class and at home. However, when it comes to the subject of adoption and family diversity awareness, most school administrators and teachers still have a lot to learn. Having gone through hours of diversity training, they believe they are sensitive to such issues. However, the focus of these  sessions is usually limited to race, religion, language and economic differences to name a few, leaving a large training gap on family structure and differences.

Families are changing from the traditional two parent biological family. Today’s parents can be  single, gay or lesbian, or even grandparents, and families can be blended, foster or adoptive. We need to help educators gain a developmental perspective and understanding of these family differences to help create an atmosphere of equality and acceptance for all children.

Judging by the continued use of certain class projects, many teachers have a long way to go. Asking students to construct   time lines and family trees in elementary school, or “analyze physical attributes of  families” to discover genetic links, a common middle school assignment, are the most well known offenders. Not meant to be  mean-spirited or exclusive, they   continue largely out of habit. Such    projects do not   necessarily need to be eliminated, but restructured to be more inclusive. For example, teachers assigning a genetic links project could instruct students to use their own family, a friend’s family or a famous family, thereby eliminating any awkwardness for students who are not genetically linked to their parents. Providing children options on how to complete assignments enables them to choose what they want to share about their lives, rather than reveal information they fear may cause them to feel “different”, or be bullied or teased. Teachers who are open to such variations can help build confidence and          self-esteem, which is critical to these children.

Before you rush to the phone frustrated that your children came home in tears over a project, sit and talk with them. Find out what they are upset about and if they want your help in handling it. Some children, particularly those in       elementary school, welcome your help with classroom matters;      children in middle school and high school might be more self-conscious and not want you to “make waves.”  Follow their lead when it comes to approaching teachers. If you do decide to contact teachers, be clear that you want to discuss how the assignments have      affected your child, not their    teaching ability.

If your child really doesn’t want you to contact the teacher, consider approaching the school and  suggesting that they hold training on family diversity or family differences and their impact in the classroom.  Don’t be discouraged if the school doesn’t seem open to your recommendation — many schools are only open to overtures from parents after actual instances of teasing or insensitivity occur. But, if issues continue to arise, continue to make suggestions. Keep in mind, however, that there is a limit to what parents alone can do to affect school environments. However, we hope that together, by advocating for fundamental changes in thinking and curriculum, we can make classrooms places where our children are protected from what amounts to thoughtless remarks and class assignments. Remember, when it comes to this subject, you’re the experts.

August Book Reviews

books5All reviewed books are available in our branch offices or in our online store.

Ben and the Sudden Too Big! Family by Colby Rodowsky – Ben is used to being in a two-person family–just him and his dad. Then things change. First, his dad marries Casey; then the three of them go to China to pick up the little girl Casey had decided to adopt before she met Ben’s dad. Although he worries that having a younger sibling will cause chaos, Ben is charmed by his lively new sister.  And just when he is getting used to being in a family of four Ben is tested by a family vacation that includes Casey’s 25 relatives! This is a great book for middle school readers on the adjustment of blended families and adoption. AFTH price: $14.00 HC

When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright – Adopted by loving, white parents and taunted by classmates as the only African American kid in her elite, private school, Lahni Schuler, 14, is scared of a boy who seems to be stalking her. At the same time, she’s distraught when her dad leaves her mom for another woman. The teen finally finds her place after her loving mom takes her to a multiracial church, where she sings with the gospel choir and is inspired by some great musicians and by her teacher-mentor to enter a school vocal competition. An uplifting book about finding your place in a multi-racial family and dealing with divorce.  Good for middle schoolers. AFTH price: $6.00 PB

Parenting Adopted Adolescents : Understanding and appreciating their journey by Gregory C Keck, PhD – Dr. Gregory C. Keck offers new insights and parenting strategies relative to adolescents, especially adopted adolescents. This book visits a diversity of adolescent and adoption issues and helps to simplify their intertwined relationship. Chapters include but are not limited to, Identity formation, creating one self from many pieces, loss of the birth family, exploring issues of abandonment and removal, and transracial and transcultural adoptions where does your child fit in.  Easy to read Dr. Keck, himself an adoptive parent guides readers to see through the eyes of their children.  His book is encouraging and enlightening.  AFTH price: $14.00 PB