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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'tknow where to begin. Should you tell him the whole story? What if it'sugly? How much can he comprehend? How much should you share? Thisarticle is intended to help you understand some developmental ages and stages to better decide how much to tell your child.

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

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

Eight year olds, on the other hand, canhandle more information. They are beginning to understand logical andabstract thinking. They are also developing morals and ethics. An eightyear old understands right from wrong: the bad guys go to jail. Theycan understand two-part directions such as please make your bed and getyour 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 showit to them on a calendar.

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

Finally we touch on teenagers. They are their ownbreed. They are really separating themselves from their parents and arebeing influenced by their peers. It is vitally important at this stageto talk to your teen about the facts of life before they hear a skewedversion from their friends. Teens are desperate to find their ownidentity while simultaneously fitting in with their peers. They don'twant anything to make them stand out.

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

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