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How Do I Tell My Son He's Adopted?

My son is adopted. I’m not sure when, or how, to tell him. I don’t know if I even should! Is there a certain age when I should tell him? And is there a way to break the news so that it won't be traumatic for him?
Juanita

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends telling children that they're adopted as soon as they're able to understand — usually between ages 2 and 4. The concept of adoption still may be beyond them, but it's important to introduce the word to their vocabulary.

Let your son know that he can ask you any questions he has. Bringing the topic up early on will allow both you and your child to become more comfortable discussing what it means to be adopted.

To help tell the story of how your family came to be, consider keeping a scrapbook of pictures and items from when your son was born and when you adopted him. Such details and mementos can help convey your joy at having him in your life. You also might get your son one of the many books written for young kids about being adopted.

Most important, try to make adoption something that is openly discussed, rather than a secret with a negative connotation.

Your pediatrician can be a good source of other tips about discussing adoption.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2009

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