Adoptive Families has a helpful age-by-age guide to talking to your kids about adoption.
Title: Adoption Through a Child’s Eyes
Author: Lois Melina
Quote: “By tuning in to what children understand about adoption at different ages, our talks become richer, more intimate, and ultimately more effective.”
“One problem in talking with children about adoption is that they often appear to understand more than they really do. Researchers at Rutgers University, including psychologist David Brodzinsky, found that children of roughly the same age have similar levels of understanding about adoption, whether or not they are in adoptive families. Children seem to develop a general understanding of what adoption is and how it works from their social environment rather than by accumulating information from their parents. Our job as parents, therefore, is not to explain the concept of adoption so much as it is to provide information about the child’s particular situation, as well as emotional support. The key is creating an environment where children feel comfortable discussing adoption — and know that you are, too.
Children, then, need to have the adoption story repeated, because they will focus on different aspects of it at different developmental stages. At one age a child wonders how old his birthparents were; at another, he’s more interested in the legal process of adoption. Fortunately, we now have some understanding of what children need to know at certain stages of development. “