Should you tell a child they are adopted?

My sister is in her mid-thirties and after having fertility treatments she adopted a baby girl. Her baby looks a lot like her. She says she is going to tell her that she is adopted right from the beginning. I think she should protect her and not tell her until she is older, if at all. It would, I think, confuse her. What do you think?

It is not your choice. It is your sister’s choice. She will decide what to do. I am sure you will support her in whatever she decides.

There has been a change in thinking about telling adopted children about their origins in the last 20 years. Now, children are usually told right from the beginning about their adoption. If your sister tells her daughter about her adoption early on, the child can integrate it into her view of who she is. This can prevent feelings of betrayal if she is not told and finds out.

Your niece would almost certainly find out either by accident or by someone letting the secret out. A lifetime is a long time for all the people who know the secret to keep it. Perhaps at age 10 years, she will wonder why there are no pictures of her mother being pregnant. Perhaps a cousin will point out to her that she has a nose that is different from the “family nose”. Maybe a busybody or a drunk will directly tell her she is adopted.

If your niece does not know about her adoption for many years and then finds out, she will feel betrayed. Hiding adoption encourages the idea that adoption is somehow shameful. Adoption should be celebrated. It is a great way to make a family.

I think your sister is on the right track.

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