Tell adopted child he is a blessed addition to family
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.