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Published Friday July 24th, 2009 at 11:21am

Original Article by Kerstin Lochrie

You've decided to tell your child that he is adopted, but you don't know where to begin. Should you tell him the whole story? What if it's ugly? How much can he comprehend? How much should you share? This article is intended to help you understand some developmental ages and stages to better decide how much to tell your child.

Four year olds can be a lot of fun. They can run, jump and hop. They keep up an endless stream of conversation, all of which begins with the word, ‘Why?'. Four year olds are beginning to understand time but only if it happened yesterday or is happening tomorrow. They cannot understand calendar time such as a birthday in three months or Grandma coming to visit next week.

The best way to start a conversation about adoption with them is to tell them that they are adopted. Tell them that it means that they grew in another Mommy's tummy, but then you came to get them. A simple photo album will handle most of their (simple) questions.

Eight year olds, on the other hand, can handle more information. They are beginning to understand logical and abstract thinking. They are also developing morals and ethics. An eight year old understands right from wrong: the bad guys go to jail. They can understand two-part directions such as please make your bed and get your shoes. They are beginning to understand time and days of the week. You can tell them that you're going on vacation in two weeks and show it to them on a calendar.

An eight year old is ready for some of the truth. They can understand that adoption means a birthfather and a real father. If the details surrounding their adoption are very ugly it probably isn't a good idea to share it all, but you can tell them that their mother wasn't ready to parent any child and that she wanted you to do the job.

Finally we touch on teenagers. They are their own breed. They are really separating themselves from their parents and are being influenced by their peers. It is vitally important at this stage to talk to your teen about the facts of life before they hear a skewed version from their friends. Teens are desperate to find their own identity while simultaneously fitting in with their peers. They don't want anything to make them stand out.

Talk to them about the circumstances surrounding their adoption. If their birthparent is in jail, tell them. If their birthmother has two other children, tell them. Share the documents if you choose. Stress that this is their past, but the choice to put the past behind them and move forward is in their hands.

Being aware of the various ages and stages will prevent you from sharing too much information at too young an age. It may also have an added benefit in that your teen may become closer to you by being treated like an adult. Good luck in your endeavors.