We are the adoptive parents of a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Her birth mother was a hard-working young woman. One evening, when she came home from work, she received some phone calls (we don’t know who they were from) and apparently went to meet whomever had called…. The following day she was found dead, having been tortured cruelly and savagely.
Our daughter ought to know about all this, but at what age, and how do we tell her? We don’t want her to be psychologically damaged by finding this out from other unwise people…
Your situation is filled with joy and sadness at the same time. Your daughter is blessed to have parents who love her and will care for her in every way. And you are blessed to have this special child in your life. But at the same time, there is sadness for her birth mother and uncertainty as to how to best share the horrible facts of what happened to her.
Just as children grow taller as the years go by, their capacity for understanding is also growing. Since your daughter is four years old, you should have already told her that some parents get their babies at the hospital and some parents get their babies through adoption. The best time to talk about it is when you read stories to her. Take every opportunity to mention how much you wanted a little girl and how God gave you what you asked for. Show her pictures of the first time that you held her and talk about how happy you were on that day. However, just as she is not ready to understand the biological details of her procreation, she is also not ready to understand the concept of having different birth parents.
As she grows, ask God to give you wisdom as to how much information you should provide when she asks questions. Wise Solomon wrote a proverb that you should attempt to follow. It says, “The LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”1 As Solomon knew, you will need supernatural wisdom to know at what age you should reveal each additional piece of information. Never lie to her, but change the subject to distract her when she asks for information that she is not mature enough to handle.
Most children can begin to understand abstract concepts when they are seven or eight years old. This is also the age that someone might have opportunity to tell your daughter about the death of her birth mother. Before this happens, make sure that you have taught your daughter that every person has the ability to make good choices or bad choices, and that bad choices often hurt other people. Somewhere along the way, you can mention the fact that people who make bad choices can sometimes kill other people, resulting in innocent victims, such as her birth mother. She will get her emotional cues from you; so reveal this news calmly, as if you were talking about something that happened to your great-grandparents many years ago.
Ask God to give you wisdom for every step of the way,
1 Pr 2:6