Language is so important at any time but most especially when we are teaching our children. Your children will follow your lead. From chats about difficult more adult situations that led to your child's placement to chats about their birth parents- you will set the tone and in many ways you will give your child the first impressions of their adoption and where they came from.
Word Choices - We take great care to teach our children proper words and dissuade them from using other less acceptable words they hear at school or from a friend. Some things we have multiple names for so we can choose the word; like- ma, mom, mommy, momma, mother. Sometimes we just have the opportunity to say something or present something in a little different way and it can totally change the outcome of the listeners perception of it. When it comes to adoption, choose your words wisely and kindly. Your words will make an impression and start the path of your child's journey in the way they feel about it.
I cannot imagine how differently I would feel about my adoption if my parents had first said I was "abandoned" rather than telling me the entire heart-wrenching story that brought the humanity to it.
What if my parents chose to speak poorly about my birthmother rather than allowing me to formulate my own opinion one day? Would I have felt as accepted by my parents? Would I have felt judged by their comments about her if they had been negative?
What if my parents had referred to me as "the adopted child"? I would likely not have the same relationship with them or my sister who arrived biologically and I might feel differently about my own worth. I was loved and treated the same was as my sister was.
What if my parents said they were "my adoptive parents"? Would I have fully accepted them as my parents? Would they have been what I needed them to be- which was just a parent ready to help me with ALL my needs- those dealing with adoption as well as everything else?
What if someone asks you if that is your "REAL" child or if you are the "real parent"? The answer is YES! You are both real in every way. We are all REAL. We all belong to each other so they are YOURS and you are THEIRS- we all need to belong somewhere.
WORDS DO MATTER...
Do not label your child as "the adopted child" and be sure to follow your child's lead if he or she chooses a particular term on their own for their birth parents. Personally, I think a lot of the terms used for birth parents either do not make sense past the age of 6 or they are not really applicable or just sound silly- but that is just me. Your child may have their own ideas and theirs is the voice you should listen to. If you are a waiting family, remember that a woman is not a birthmother until she has placed a child through adoption. While we are at it, let me tell you again that you are not an "adoptive parent" no need to quantify- you and your child know you are a parent- period! DO not forget the positive words and sharing with your child that he or she was always wanted and that your love for him or her is unconditional and forever. Words DO matter.
Timing- There should never be a time your child does not know they are adopted or that you are not honestly talking to them in age appropriate ways when there are questions.
Tone & Body Language- You as an adult know how quickly you can detect in someone's voice how they feel about something or someone. Be mindful of this as you speak to your child about their story or their birth family. It is more important that you listen to your child's feelings after you have shared honest facts then it is for you to influence how they feel about any of it. Most often we do not even notice we have a tone- so just be aware. If you child detects negative feelings about their birth family they may believe you feel the same about them-self.
Honesty- Every word that comes from you should be honest and age appropriate. Your child needs to be able to trust you through any and everything.
Open Door Policy- Your child should know that anywhere and anytime you will talk them them if they need to talk. Through your honesty, your not judging your child's story or those in it and doing all for your child's best interest he or she will be more comfortable with them-self, their story and talking to you (even as a teenager)
Be There- The talks will change. Your child may deal with some difficult feelings. They need to know you will always be there. Your child may worry about how their feelings will make you feel. Just be there. Make sure that he or she knows you are always there and will love him or her NO MATTER WHAT.