The Importance of a Truthful Family Tree
Each family story carries unique details, making it special and one of a kind. A family tree grows different branches and sheds distinctive leaves. For a child to be comfortable with the truth of his or her individual adoption story, adoptive parents and birthparents must courageously share the story—the real story. That requires the parents to accept and embrace the truthful story themselves, no matter how good or bad that story may be.
Children initially find self-acceptance through family dynamics. Humans want to know that they exist and that their existence matters. This is ever more true for children who want to know where their roots grow. Adoption stories told in age appropriate dialogue empowers children to connect to the truth and embark on the path of knowing and being themselves, to bloom where they are planted.
Sharing the family story truthfully establishes trust between children and their adoptive parents and birthparents, and trust is of vital importance. Children love to hear their birth story—what was the weather like that day, how did the adoptive parents react when they got news of the birth, how long was labor? They also want to know and understand who plays a role in the family story.
Children seek to connect to their real family story. They will create a fantasy story of their own if the truth is not given to them. When the story is left to the imagination of a child, that child will often fill in the blanks with imaginary details. That false sense of reality can lead to disappointment and resentment when the truth is revealed.
In school, the Family Tree assignment can be challenging for adopted children because the traditional family tree format does not allow for the full view of an adoptive child’s family—both birthparents and adoptive parents. We suggest talking with your child’s teacher to see whether she would be open to modifying the assignment to encompass the unique branches of an adoptive child’s family tree. Here are two possible modifications:
- The child can draw multiple houses and name the people that live within each house—the people they most identify as their family. Then the child can connect the houses with drawn lines.
- Another modification is to use a tree metaphor. See the pdf labeled Family Tree Worksheet to the left
So much love resides within the stories of adoption, and children want to know and feel that love. A birthmother’s love continues for a lifetime, and adoptive parents give love to the child the moment they dreamed of a family. Love reciprocates between birthmothers and adoptive parents and enfolds the child at the center of it all. Telling the true, real family story gives the child the best chance at learning to give and receive love. This nourishment comes from a clear picture of the child’s unique and special family tree.