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Get comfortable with your child's birth history and adoption


Leceta Chisholm Guibault

I think the biggest "obstacle" for some of us adoptive parents is dealing with a reality ourselves -- the reality that our beloved children have another family ... a "first family", a biological family, a birth family ... or as our children sometimes refer to them as they get older: their "real family". (Try not to let the reference to "real family" hurt you, as our children sometimes struggle with understanding titles and roles as much as we do. Remind them that they have two real families. One no more "real" than the other.)

I know from my personal experience pre-adoption that we can focus so much on adopting a child that sometimes our minds do not allow us to comfortably think about our child's birthfamily ... nor, in 1990, were we encouraged to! (Okay, I did. This had a lot to do with my previous experience with a prospective domestic birthmother. Birthfamily became very "real" for me.)

My advice from personal experience? Become comfortable with your child's birth history and adoption. Accept the realities yourself. Work them out in your own mind. Become comfortable and accepting of the terms "adopted, birth, bio, other mother, real". Many truly struggle with the words "mother" and "family" when referring to their children's birthfamilies. You know ... our kids, once they grasp the concept of adoption, know that means they have another family.

Chances are, if they sense that we, their parents, are not comfortable talking about birthfamily ... they will not talk to us, they will not ask questions. I am so thankful that my son Tristan can ask questions because he has had so many misconceptions over the years (abandonment misconceptions and reasons for relinquishment misconceptions). If he did not share them ... how would I know? How could I correct them?

There are very informative books and resources available on this topic and in addition I strongly recommend attending adoption conferences, workshops and seminars.

Once again ... my personal experience: Start talking to your children as soon as possible. They are never too young. Of course, they may not understand what in the heck you are talking about but it's practice for you: in time they start to understand and will ask questions. I have learned via my children that they are so accepting of their own information ... their own story.

Answer their questions age-appropriately. If you don't know the answer ... be honest. Don't make anything up. My children's questions about adoption and birthfamily have always been age-appropriate and they tend to evolve as they get older. I always answered their questions simply, knowing that they would ask for more and more details when they were ready. Tristan (Colombia) has had an open adoption since he was 18 months old. I cannot tell you how important this has been to him ... to all of us.

If we are comfortable with our children's adoption realities, they will be comfortable and accepting. I think that if we are not ... they will be confused.
Leceta is mother to Kahleah (Guatemala, 1991) and Tristan (Colombia, 1994). Leceta and husband Jean and family live in Joliette, near Montreal. She is a board member of the Adoption Council of Canada and the Federation of Quebec Adoptive Parents, and moderator of the email list Canadians-Adopting (

Copyright 2006 Leceta Chisholm Guibault,

First published at Family Helper, on Oct. 3, 2006.


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