Talking with Young Children about Adoption

Talking with Young Children about Adoption

by Mary Watkins, Susan Fisher


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Current wisdom holds that adoptive parents should talk with their child about adoption as early as possible. But no guidelines exist to prepare parents for the various ways their children might respond when these conversations take place. In this wise and sympathetic book, a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist, both adoptive mothers, discuss how young children make sense of the fact that they are adopted, how it might appear in their play, and what worries they and their parents may have. Accounts by twenty adoptive parents of conversations about adoption with their children, from ages two to ten, graphically convey what the process of sharing about adoption is like. The book will be of invaluable help to parents, teachers, mental health professionals, and lawyers as they deal with the concerns young children have about being adopted.
Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher begin by discussing parental fantasies and concerns that interfere with talking about adoption with their children. They then review the often outdated and disheartening adoption research, showing how its results can be distorted by apprehension and bias. They next discuss how adoption conversation evolves between parents and young children, what the child at various developmental stages does and does not understand, what kinds of questions the young child has, and how these questions reflect more general developmental issues. The heart of the book consists of the stories from families—nuclear, single- parent, lesbian, and interracial families, families with adopted children only, families with both biological and adopted children, families that adopted a child after first foster-parenting. These stories make it clear how early sharing about adoption establishes a family atmosphere in which worries and concerns can freely arise and be addressed, allowing the fact of adoption to strengthen family understanding, honesty, and intimacy. An appendix lists by age the adoption comments, related questions, and play sequences of children.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300063172
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 02/28/1995
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 270
Sales rank: 1,083,687
Product dimensions: 6.25(w) x 9.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Mary Watkins, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Littleton, Massachusetts, a teacher at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, and the author of Waking Dreams and Invisible Guests: The Development of Imaginal Dialogues. Susan M. Fisher, M.D., is a psychoanalyst and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine, and is also coauthor of To Do No Harm: DES and the Dilemmas of Modern Medicine.

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Talking with Young Children about Adoption 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
hypatia_lea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The example conversations given in this book are good.But in general, if you're considering how to talk to your own child - I think it's possibly more useful to just go to a few adoption support group events (or join some egroups) and chat with other adoptive parents about how they approached this with their own children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really like this book..the first part has a lot of detailed information on different adoption studies. The 2nd part of the book contains stories from parents showing how they talked to their children. It really shows that every child/family is different and gives lots of ideas.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is really a wonderful resource for adoptive parents. It provides so much insight into how children process adoption: what their thoughts, questions and worries are at different developmental stages. This is a book that will help parents discuss adoption with their children and present it as a wonderful way of building families, while acknowledging the inherent loss and grief associated with adoption. The book includes real examples of conversations between children and their parents and/or peers, that are very useful. Christine Mitchell, author and illustrator of Welcome Home, Forever Child: A Celebration of Children Adopted as Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Beyond
Guest More than 1 year ago
Both authors instilled confidence in me because they themselves are adoptive mothers and are seeing the issue from the inside out. I wish I had had a book such as this when we adopted our child in 1969 at age 4 days. I was completely in the dark as to when and how to tell our little girl about her adoption. I only knew that she had to be told and presumed that it should be as early as possible. Watkins's and Fisher's book give the adoptive parent(s) helpful guidelines in understanding (anticipating) the young adoptee's questions and concerns and are encouraged to be as natural as possible talking to their children any time the children bring up the topic. I would like mention one research study that tells us when we can expect adoptees truly to understand the notions of birth and adoption. In their book, Openness in Adoption, Exploring Family Connections, Harold D. Grotevant and Ruth G. McRoy found that the mean age of children NOT understanding the meaning of adoption is 5.8, age range 4.9-8.8; the mean age of children fusing the two concepts of adoption and birth is 6.4, age range 4.7-9.6; only at the mean age of 7.5, age range 4.7-12.9, do children clearly differentiate between adoption and birth as alternative paths to parenthood and accept that the adoptive family relationship is permanent, but do not understand why; children at a mean age of 8.9, age range 5.4-11.9, differentiate between adoption and birth but are unsure about the permanence of the adoptive parent-child relationship. The children at this age fear that the natural parents might reclaim them. At the mean age of 9.5, age range 6.6-12.6 the children vaguely understand that their relationship with their adoptive parents is permanent because a judge, lawyer, doctor or social worker signed some papers. Only at the mean age of 10.5, age range 8.0-12.1, is the adoption relationship fully understood with its characterized permanency. Gisela Gasper Fitzgerald, author of ADOPTION: An Open, Semi-Open or Closed Practice?