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Talking with Young Children about Adoption

Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher

View Inside Price: $23.00

February 22, 1995
270 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/2
ISBN: 9780300063172

Current wisdom holds that adoptive parents should talk with their child about adoption as early as possible. But no guidelines exist to prepare parents for the various ways their children might respond when these conversations take place. In this wise and sympathetic book, a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist, both adoptive mothers, discuss how young children make sense of the fact that they are adopted, how it might appear in their play, and what worries they and their parents may have. Accounts by twenty adoptive parents of conversations about adoption with their children, from ages two to ten, graphically convey what the process of sharing about adoption is like. The book will be of invaluable help to parents, teachers, mental health professionals, and lawyers as they deal with the concerns young children have about being adopted.
Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher begin by discussing parental fantasies and concerns that interfere with talking about adoption with their children. They then review the often outdated and disheartening adoption research, showing how its results can be distorted by apprehension and bias. They next discuss how adoption conversation evolves between parents and young children, what the child at various developmental stages does and does not understand, what kinds of questions the young child has, and how these questions reflect more general developmental issues. The heart of the book consists of the stories from families—nuclear, single- parent, lesbian, and interracial families, families with adopted children only, families with both biological and adopted children, families that adopted a child after first foster-parenting. These stories make it clear how early sharing about adoption establishes a family atmosphere in which worries and concerns can freely arise and be addressed, allowing the fact of adoption to strengthen family understanding, honesty, and intimacy. An appendix lists by age the adoption comments, related questions, and play sequences of children.

Mary Watkins, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Littleton, Massachusetts, a teacher at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, and the author of Waking Dreams and Invisible Guests: The Development of Imaginal Dialogues. Susan M. Fisher, M.D., is a psychoanalyst and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine, and is also coauthor of To Do No Harm: DES and the Dilemmas of Modern Medicine.

"This unique book updates our knowledge, experiences, and questions about the adoption process in the 1990s. It will be useful to adoptive parents and to professionals."—Albert J. Solnit, M.D., Commissioner of Mental Health, State of Connecticut

"A wise and compassionate book which is 'must' reading for every parent of an adopted child. Teachers and others who work with adopted children will find a particularly valuable resource in understanding the particular promises and problems posed by adoption for these children and their families."—Bertram J. Cohler, University of Chicago

"This is a remarkable book of both family and scientific dialogues on adoption, a perfect book for adoptive parents and for professionals who work with adopted children and their families. The book is a lucid summary of research on this topic and a vivid chronicle of discussion between adopted children, their parents, and others who are important in their lives. There is absolutely nothing like this book anywhere."—David Reiss, director, Center for Family Research, George Washington University Medical Center

"It is an informative and moving experience to read the Watkins and Fisher book on adoption. For adoptive parents it will be reassuring to see how varied the concerns and responses are of both parents and children. What emerges from this study is a recognition of the intense need of all children to be loved and to test that love by expressing doubts, whether it be of their biological parents or their adoptive parents."—Elof Axel Carlson, State University of New York at Stony Brook

"Talking with Young Children about Adoption combines two perspectives in one very valuable package. In addition to the many provocative and informative examples of children’s talk with parents about adoption, the book provides an excellent review of research on adoption that will be useful to professionals as well as adoptive parents."—Katherine Nelson, City University of New York Graduate Center

"Personal stories of people talking with their two to seven year old adopted children shed unusual insight into the real relationship between adoptees and their parents. The book demonstrates that the challenges facing people who adopt are basically the same as those raising children to whom they have given birth. . . . Dispels the stereotypes surrounding adoption and brings to bear the humanness of the experience of raising children. . . . Its warm and often humorous stories sensitively portray the human condition, nicely balancing academic history, practical advice, and entertaining reading which validates parents as an important knowledge base."—Louis M. Crosier, Boston Book Review

"The book should prod professionals to rethink some of the standard suggestions about the entire subject of talking about adoption with children of all ages and their families. The book is a welcome addition to the library of anyone working with children and their families."—Ruth P. Sager, m.d., Journal of the American Medical Association

"Talking to Young Children About Adoption is highly recommended reading for mental health professionals. In fact, Watkins and Fisher’s book is so powerful and touching that it will captivate anyone who is interested in learning more about relationships and the bonds of love."—Aline Zoldbrod, Massachusetts Psychological Association Quarterly

"[This] book, with all its examples from different kinds of adoptive parents and from various types of adoptions is so compassionate, reassuring, and jargon-free, it empowers adoptive parents. It bestows a very vivid, warm and positive view of adoption and of the different participants in the adoptive process. . . . Should be recommended reading for all adoptive parents and anyone considering adoption. . . . So powerful and touching that it will captivate anyone who is interested in learning more about relationships and the bonds of love."—Aline Zoldbrod, Option Two

"Parents and professionals who wish to get some practical, down-to-earth ideas about communicating with and understanding the young adopted child will relish this book."—Vivek Kusumakar, Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child Psychiatry

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