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The Competent Parent: Adoption secrets

Headshot2011Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Adoption Secrets

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My husband and I are lucky enough to have a lively 2-year-old we’ve been proud parents of since she was 3 days old. It was privately arranged through friends of friends. We paid for prenatal care and paid for her to have a place to stay until the baby was born. We have two grown sons, too. People have been asking me when I’ll tell her she’s adopted. Isn’t it way too soon? Some of the facts about her birth mother aren’t exactly role model material, and no one seems to know anything about the biological father.

The Real Mom


Dear Real Mom,

It would be important to start using the vocabulary that will make more sense to your daughter as she gets older. You can act out pregnancy, child birth and adoption with stuffed animals or baby dolls as part of play time. Sprinkle your play with such words as “birth mother,” “hard decision,” “adopt,” and anything else that is part of the story of how she came into your family. But, please, just the rosy parts. Put as positive a spin as you can to what you know about the birth mother. Sometimes a woman finds herself in difficult circumstances when a baby is on the way. No home, not enough money to buy the things a baby needs, not enough family support. She may yet need time to figure out how to take good care of herself before she is ready to help a child grow up. If a woman is not able to take good care of a baby, adoption is a wonderful choice she can make. Besides brightening the chances for the future wellbeing of a newborn, adoption can also give an older child the solid foundation of a stable, loving family – as all children deserve. While older children will have a good idea of why they couldn’t stay with birth parents, they also need steady reassurance that their new families couldn’t imagine a life without them.

I suspect the big brothers, as well as you and your husband, are constantly reminded of how lucky a family you are to have this little one in it. Be sure to tell her so. When she’s old enough to know more, she’ll let you know.

Since adopted children make up just 2% of the children in the US, count yourselves lucky indeed!

Dr. Debbie (also lucky)

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor@chesapeakefamily.com.

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