"That's your mom?"
"Yes," my daughter, Eliana, replied.
"Why didn't your real mom keep you?"
I understand that children ask questions because they're naturally curious, but I still ached to watch my 11-year-old daughter struggle over her classmate's surprise at her being the black kid with a white mother. Though Eliana knows I'm her real mom, she still has to respond to her peers' curiosity.
It's important to give our kids the tools they need to handle uncomfortable questions. Talking openly at home about adoption, as well as helping them process adoption's complexities in a safe environment, will give our children confidence to respond well to others.
Give permission to say no
Not all children are comfortable sharing their stories. If your kids want to talk about it, great. If they prefer to keep it within the family, that's OK, too.
Since my daughter is private, I encouraged her not to feel pressure to reveal information she doesn't want to. After all, it's her story. A polite reply of "I don't feel like talking about it" is perfectly appropriate.
See questions as opportunities
When questions arise, they provide opportunities to tell people about how normal and fantastic adoption is. From the time Eliana was little, I explained that adoption is a special way that God forms families.
I also reminded her that God brought us into His family as adopted sons and daughters. When the Father adopted us, this became a model for families to welcome a child into their home. That information empowered my daughter to communicate that adoption is another way families come together.
Encourage them to correct misunderstandings
Recently when a classmate assumed Eliana was a foster child, my daughter explained that foster care and adoption are different, but that foster care can lead to adoption. She helped her classmate understand that adoption is permanent and we are her forever family.
As Eliana told me how she handled this situation on her own, I knew she was finding her voice in the adoption conversation. She not only clarified her classmate's misunderstanding, but also used the moment to educate others.
By instilling our children with the assurance that adoption is their story, we empower them to embrace who they are. We also give them the confidence to handle future questions.
Now, when my daughter is asked about her "real mom," she knows just what to say.Sara R. Ward is an adoptive mom of three children.