Talking About Adoption

As an adoptive parent, I’ve heard a statistic that for every one time my child mentions the subject of adoption, he or she is thinking about it ten times more. I view “adoption talk” as an iceberg: a huge mass under water that is unseen; the actual discussion is merely the tip. 

My children seem to think about adoption in waves. Days will go by with no questions or comments, and then suddenly, adoption will be all they want to discuss. That’s been the case this week. On Monday, Olivia announced: “I need extra copies of my First Holy Communion photos so I can give them to people in Guatemala.” I assured her that would not be a problem. On Wednesday, Mateo said, “When I lived with my old mother, I had a hamster.” He usually calls his birth mother by name, so I was surprised to hear him say “old mother.” Finally, last night as she was brushing her teeth, Olivia said, “I’m really supposed to speak Spanish. Everyone who lives in Guatemala speaks Spanish and that’s where I’m from.” 

Whenever and wherever these discussions come up, I’m open to them. Each one leads to another longer and meandering conversation—about the circumstances of their births, their families in Guatemala, their lives now and how they are different. I love our conversations, and encourage them: They give me a small peek into the interior lives of my children. I want my children to feel they can come to me with their questions, fears, or concerns, not only about adoption, but about everything.  Who better to ask? I’m their mother.


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11 Responses to “Talking About Adoption”

  1. Sveta says:

    Jessica, I think you are doing an amazing job of being open, sincere and matter-of-fact about this topic with your kids. our “iceberg” topic is the absence of dad in Alex’s life. We also do talk about adoption quite a bit, mostly because we are good friends with several families with adopted children, and also because Alex shares at least one common feature with adopted kids – he does not look like me. Plus, he does not know where his dad is right now, so there is that mystery, too. As far as looking like parents goes, he was once sad because someone did not think I was his mom based on our looks. I held up your family as an example, and said “Look, they don’t look like their mom or dad either, but are they not any less of a family because of it?” Alex thought for a second and exclaimed, “No! They are a GREAT family!” He actually calls people out now when they comment that we don’t look alike, and gives a mini-lecture on looks and being a family. Thank you for providing a great example and encouragement for us.

  2. Michelle K. says:

    I like your iceberg analogy. I’ve never looked at it like that, but it’s so true!

    Adoption talk is the norm in our house as well — it has to be, it’s written in my heart — it’s part of who we are as a family. Not talking of adoption and my children’s birth countries would be denying my children of the truth. Talking more makes things more normal – than keeping things behind a veil of mystery.

    When it comes to birth family talk, I’ve learned to allow Angelica to guide me. She’s set limits and I respect those limits.

    Thanks for being open and keeping it real. :)

  3. Michelle K. says:

    Ugh, your not you’re….sigh. :)

  4. Jessica says:

    Sveta: that’s so nice to hear. Thank you! Also interesting about your “iceberg” topic. More and more, I realize every family has one; ours happens to be adoption. Good to remember.

    Michelle: I really like your idea of letting Angelica guide you and respecting her limits. Allows her to come to conclusions in her own time. Re: your P.S. Maybe a typo that was deleted? Funny because I often put up blogs or FB postings only to realize 10 seconds later that I’ve deleted a word or misspelled something. Drives me absolutely crazy!

  5. admin says:


    I logged into the database and corrected it :)

    Don’t you wish it was always the case :)


  6. Jessica says:

    How’s that for rapid response? Thank you, D!

  7. admin says:

    You are welcome :)

  8. I seem to always get emotional when I read your blog. As an adult adoptee in my 40s, my adoption was just not discussed as a child. i was told about it, but that was all. My adopted parents divorced so I was raised by my father, who spoke even less about it. It wasn’t until these last years since my son was born that I’ve really focused on finding out who I am. Mainly I find out who I am by how I am with my son.

    Thank you for being what you are to your kids. The world begins to heal with people like you!

  9. Jessica says:

    Sarah, your comment made me cry. I love this sentence: “Mainly I find out who I am by how I am with my son.” Beautiful. Thank you for writing.

  10. Joannie says:

    I have tears in my eyes reading this. Timmy asks very little so far, but, I know he will begin asking more as he gets older. I will be coming to you for advice!!!
    Thank you for sharing your world!

  11. Jessica says:

    Each child seems to start asking questions at a different time. Probably because of my book, we discuss the subject more than most. But from my other friends, I know it does and will happen–just a question of when. Any time you need to discuss, Joannie, I’m here!

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