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Explaining, to a 3 year old

(11 Posts)
Devora Wed 16-Jan-13 21:01:39

dd2, who is 3, has just become intensely interested in her life story book. We have been explaining adoption to her for about 18 months, in what I hope are age appropriate ways, but now of course she is asking questions. The one I find stickiest is when I say her birth parents couldn't look after her properly, and she says: why? I found myself mumbling something about them not being very well, but then thought that was a rubbish explanation (she'll be thinking every time your parents get sick they give you away).

Can I ask if anybody else has found a form of words that worked with a child this age? I'm aware that it varies with the precise reasons for adoption, and I don't want to say too much, but basically she was taken into care at birth for the usual mix of reasons.

Or has anyone found a book particularly useful? I've looked at a few, but the ones for children this age are usually American and very cutesy (and avoid the 'why' question). The Nutmeg one I found a bit upsetting, but maybe I just need to face up to the fact that this IS upsetting and I can't protect her from that.

Italiangreyhound Thu 17-Jan-13 01:19:31

Hi Devora can adoption service assist with guidence? Didn't want to leave your post unanswered. Hope you find the right words.

oinker Thu 17-Jan-13 08:04:29

Hi Devora
Our little one is about the same age as yours and like u we've been showing him an album of pics for a while now. You are fortunate that you have life story work. We are still waitingconfused
Anyway in answer to your question our SW has advised us to say stuff like tummy mummy couldn't look after u because she even struggled to look after herself and we all had to make sure you were cared for. We were advised never to say she wasn't well for the exact reason u gave. Plus people generally get better so DD may think she'll come and get her once she's better.
Go onto the BAAF site they have several books which are good. We have quite a few kids ones BUT our DS is more interested in listening to his books grin
Good luck.

RudolphLovesoftplay Thu 17-Jan-13 09:49:59

I told my 3&4 year old that <insert name> couldn't/wouldn't look after you because they never learnt how too from their mummy and daddy. I was also very honest and said that <insert social workers name> tried lots and lots of times to teach them but they couldn't learn how.

I know this isn't perhaps the social services approved thing to say, but I don't want to make it to fluffy. Ultimately, my children's birth parents turned down every offer of help and support offered to them and I think it's fair that my beautiful boys know that. I think it's important they understand it was a massive decision, and everything was tried first before they were removed.

adoptmama Thu 17-Jan-13 10:01:48

I told DD that her BM couldn't look after her, that little babies need lots of things to keep them safe and to keep them healthy and BM was not able to do these things. Sometimes the answer to 'why?' has to be 'I don't know' or 'some people just aren't able to do those things for themselves or other people, and little kids need to be kept well and safe'.

For DD1 it is relatively straight forward and I can say with honesty 'so your BM chose to have the SW find you a new mummy because she wanted you to be safe in a good family and she could not look after you safely or well'. DD2 will be more challenging as her story is far, far more complicated and cannot be made more palatable in any way. At some point down the line the truth of it will have to be given to DD2 and I still struggle to know how to tell her how she was abandoned. sad I would say, what ever you tell her now make sure it is the truth even if it is edited. Don't say for example that you are sure the BM loved you and wanted the best for you if this is not true.

KristinaM Thu 17-Jan-13 10:04:18

Some people are not very good at looking aftre babies. They don't understand that they need fed and changed often. They forget to change the babies nappy and it gets sore. The baby cries a lot and the mum/dad gets angry, they think the baby is crying to annoy them.

Sometimes babies wake up and and cry during the night. Parenst have to getup and look after the baby. Most parenst understand that all babies do this, it's nt the babies fault. But some parenst get angry and shout at the baby or even hit it. Even a small hit or shake can hurt a baby really badly, as they are so small.

they forget to feed the baby. They don't clean the bottle properly so the baby gets sick. They feed the baby the wrong food.

They don't understand that babies need a lot of attention . They leave the baby in the cot or the buggy all the time while they watch television or do others things.

They leave the baby at home alone while they go out. They think the baby is safe in the cot but its not.

Sometimes other people like social workers or relatives try to teach the parenst how to look aftre the baby properly. Some parenst learn how to do this but others don't. Sometimes they can't. Other wont, becaus they don't want to stop doing the other things in their life that stop them paying attention to their baby


KristinaM Thu 17-Jan-13 10:10:28

Once she's a little older, maybe about 5, you will be able to add the issue of addictions ( if appropriate ) .

Try not to say things that are completely untrue. If you are stuck it's better to say " there are lots of reasons but its hard to understand when you are small, you will understand better when you are at school "

My general view is that if they are old enough to ask , they are old enough to be told ( in an age appropriate way)

Also they shoudl know EVERYTHING that you know (about them ) before adolescence.

KristinaM Thu 17-Jan-13 10:13:06

IME 3 yo often relate to the practical side of caring for a baby, as they see this modelled all around them, with the babies of friends and family or in nusery where they play with dolls.


lougle Thu 17-Jan-13 10:15:20

How about

"When people have a baby, they have to learn how to do everything the baby needs to keep him/her safe and well. Some people don't learn how to do these things, even if somebody tries to teach them."

Devora Thu 17-Jan-13 22:44:01

Thank you, everybody. Some great forms of words here. I'm going to memorise them like a script till they feel natural, so I don't get caught on the hop.

Thank you again. That was just what I was after.

KristinaM Fri 18-Jan-13 13:11:20

Please don't memorise what I wrote-it's written in my voice. Well myvoice for explainig things to toddlers. Put it in your own words. It was just to give you the idea.

Maybe it's soemthing you coudl raise with her next time she is playing with a baby doll? You coudl ask her why sheiks doing what she is doing eg feeding it,bathing it. Obviously this won't work if she is hitting it with a hammer or pulling its legs off and feeding them to the dog

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