Tell adopted child he is a blessed ad­di­tion to fam­ily

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

Ques­tion: How would you go about telling a child he or she is adopted, and when should that dis­clo­sure oc­cur?

Dob­son: First, be­gin talk­ing to your tod­dler about his or her adop­tion be­fore the child can un­der­stand the mean­ing of the word. That way there will never be a mo­ment when dis­clo­sure is nec­es­sary. To learn of adop­tion from a neigh­bor or other fam­ily mem­ber can be an aw­ful shock to an in­di­vid­ual. Don’t risk the dev­as­ta­tion of a later dis­cov­ery by fail­ing to take the sting out of the is­sue in baby­hood.

Sec­ond, cel­e­brate two birth­days with equal gusto each year: the an­niver­sary of her birth, and the an­niver­sary of the day she be­came your daugh­ter. That is a handy mech­a­nism by which the adop­tion can be in­tro­duced. It also pro­vides a way to equal­ize the sta­tus of sib­lings. Bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren have a psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­van­tage, which they some­times lord over their adopted brother or sis­ter. That one­up­man­ship is neu­tral­ized some­what when the adopted child gets a sec­ond birth­day.

Third, present the adop­tive event as a tremen­dous bless­ing (as im­plied above) that brought great ex­cite­ment to the house­hold. Tell about how badly you and your wife wanted a baby to hold even though it looked like you wouldn’t get to raise an­other boy or girl. Then de­scribe how the news came that “you had ar­rived,” and how the whole fam­ily cel­e­brated and cheered. Let your child know your de­light when you first saw him ly­ing in a crib, and how cute he looked in his blue blan­ket, etc. Tell him that his adop­tion was one of the hap­pi­est days of your life, and how you raced to the tele­phone to call all your friends and fam­ily mem­bers to share the fan­tas­tic news. (Again, I’m as­sum­ing that th­ese de­tails are true.)

This is the point: The child’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the adop­tive event is al­most to­tally de­pen­dent on the man­ner in which it is con­veyed dur­ing the early years. Most cer­tainly, one does not want to approach the sub­ject sadly, ad­mit­ting re­luc­tantly that a dark and trou­ble­some se­cret must now be con­fessed.

Fourth, when the foun­da­tion has been laid and the is­sue is de­fused, then for­get it. Don’t con­stantly re­mind the child of his unique­ness to the point of fool­ish­ness. Men­tion the mat­ter when it is ap­pro­pri­ate, but don’t re­veal anx­i­ety or ten­sion by con­stantly throw­ing adop­tion in the child’s face. Young­sters are amaz­ingly per­cep­tive at “read­ing” th­ese thinly dis­guised at­ti­tudes.

I be­lieve it is pos­si­ble, by fol­low­ing th­ese com­mon sense sug­ges­tions, to raise an adopted child with­out psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma or per­sonal in­sult.

Ques­tion: Chil­dren seem to be grow­ing up at a younger age to­day than in the past. Is this true and if so, what ac­counts for their faster de­vel­op­ment?

Dob­son: Yes, it is true. Sta­tis­ti­cal records in­di­cate that our chil­dren are grow­ing taller to­day than in the past, prob­a­bly re­sult­ing from bet­ter nu­tri­tion, medicine, ex­er­cise, rest and re­cre­ation.

And this more ideal phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment has ap­par­ently caused sex­ual ma­tu­rity to oc­cur at younger and younger ages. It is thought that pu­berty in a par­tic­u­lar child is trig­gered when he or she reaches a cer­tain level of growth; there­fore, when en­vi­ron­men­tal and gen­eral health fac­tors pro­pel a young­ster up­ward at a faster rate, sex­ual mat­u­ra­tion oc­curs ear­lier.

For ex­am­ple, in 1850, the av­er­age age of menar­che (first men­stru­a­tion) in Nor­we­gian girls was 17.0 years of age; in 1950, it was 13.0. The av­er­age age of pu­berty in fe­males had dropped four years in one cen­tury. In the United States the av­er­age age of the menar­che dropped from 16.5 in 1840 to 12.9 in 1950. More re­cent fig­ures in­di­cate that it now oc­curs on av­er­age at 12.4 years of age. Thus, the trends to­ward younger dat­ing and sex­ual aware­ness are a re­sult, at least in part, of this “fast track” mech­a­nism.

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