My Child’s Friend Is Adopted: A Guide on How To Discuss Adoption With Your Child


My son’s friends, by around kindergarten, started asking him where his dad was.  Since the age of two he had known about his adoption, so he had an answer prepared: I am adopted. This statement would usually end the line of questions, however, as the school year continued, there was a new observation: you do not have a father.  That really hurt my son’s feelings since he instantly went to the boy without a dad after being part of the gang.  His friend wasn’t trying to be malicious or tease him.  The is just how we saw it.  He saw me – the mom – but he didn’t see a dad.


My son wasn’t sure what he should say but kept thinking about it all day.  My son told me what happened later, and I hugged him as close as I could.  I wasn’t prepared for the five-year-old’s unfiltered comments either, but I reminded my son that I wanted and loved him.  It was also a clue for me to realize that he needed more facts: That everyone has a father, but he just didn’t know his own.

This experience has made it possible for parents who were unaware that my son had been adopted to come to me for tips and learn how adoption could be explained to their children.

child's parents

Adoption is considered to be legally binding and a permanent arrangement where an individual, usually a teenager or child, becomes part of a new family.  The arrangement involves parents assuming all parental obligations and rights and custody of a child that is not yours.  Instead of using official language, usually, I just say that my children are from my heart.  However, when talking to one of the friends of my child I will just say tell them Sam is adopted, and that I am his Mom, and we don’t know who his father is.  For most younger children, this simple explanation does work.

The following are a couple of tips to help whenever your child tells you that his friend was adopted and would like to know what this means:

One thing you could say is: Mary has parents but they are unable to take care of her.  She is living with Mr. and Mrs. Brown.  They are Mary’s parents now and they love her very much.  Make sure to keep your answers to the point and short since young children are just trying to find their place in the big world and are attempting to understand what a family is, whether non-traditional or traditional.

Find adoption-themed books to read to your children. The library is full of great books that provide lessons on inclusivity and love.

Watch programs that address themes about foster care and/or adoption where they are treated as natural instead of exceptional occurrences.  Adoption doesn’t carry the taboo that it did in the past and the subject should be treated by parents as a normal part of life as much as they would losing a tooth.  Although fostering or adopting a child is a big life change for families, daily activities are the same as what a traditional household has.  Children who aren’t adopted also need to understand that their adopted friend’s family most likely functions in a similar way to theirs.

Explain the birds and bees in an age-appropriate way by saying that all animals need to have a father and mother in order to make a baby.  A mother or father might not be there sometimes due to adoption, divorce or death.


If your child continues to want to know why his friend’s parents were not able to take care of him, then just say I don’t know.  Don’t make something up since that will just add to your child’s confusion later on.  We try our very best as parents to raise children who are compassionate and who will continue practicing inclusivity and empathy when they become adults. A good place to start is to provide them with the language they need to understand diverse families.


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