How children understand adoption
Children understand adoption differently, according to their actual period of development. Even if, for example, at one year a child does not understand the concept of adoption, studies in this area have demonstrated that they feel it. As children grow, their understanding of adoption becomes deeper and the way in which we relate to them during these development stages is very important for their emotional stability.
Level 0: 0-4 years
Children do not understand adoption. However, this step is not unimportant or meaningless.
At this stage, children learn to categorize and label as positive and negative. They will learn from the nonverbal cues of others if the adoption is a good thing or bad thing. The important thing for parents during this time is to get used to using the word "adoption" and begin to feel relaxed when addressing the subject of adoption.
Level 1: 4-6 years
Children do not distinguish between birth and adoption as a way of entering a family.
For them, birth and adoption are equivalent or they believe that all children are born with some parents, then go live with others. Children should be prepared to answer questions of other children. Parents need to provide a simple story for them, such as: "Maria was too young to be my mother. She chose Mom and Dad to be my parents because she knew that I will always be special for them."
Level 2: 6-8 years
Children make a clear difference between adoptive and birth as alternative ways of entering a the family and accept the relationship with the adoptive family as permanent, but do not understand why. They acquired a knowledge of the meaning “biological”.
Parents feel the need to share specific information (sophisticated explanations will be provided in the next level). The child needs to understand the nature of relationships within the adoptive family, their permanent grounds, the reasons for adoption and the biological parents’ reason to abandon the child.
Children should be allowed to express feelings if they seem to be in difficulty.
Level 3: 8-10 years
Children make the difference between adoption and birth, but now they begin to question the permanent relationship between the adoptive parent and the child. The biological parents are seen as potentially claiming the child at any time and the adoptive family is seen as potentially fraying, which would lead to child abandonment. At this stage children begin to feel empathy for other people and many are beginning to worry about their biological parents, the adoptive parents etc. They understand that both biological parents and adoptive parents have felt in the past the meaning of loss and this may affect them.
This phase of "adoption suffering" involves a deeper understanding of the concept of adoption from the child. At this stage, parents are required to take the initiative to help children understand better the process and reasons for adoption. They should be able to encourage the child to express his or her feelings. At this stage, the foster child needs sensitivity, patience, accepting his or her feelings and parental support.
Level 4: 10-12 years
The description given by the child to the relationships within the adoptive family is characterized by a sense of quasi-legal permanence – invoking authority figures, such as judges, lawyers, doctors and social workers, who, in a way, "make" the parent-child relationship permanent.
Level 5: over 12 years
The relationship with the adoptive family is now characterized as permanent, involving the transfer of legal rights and / or responsibilities to the child from the biological parents to the adoptive parents.