December 14th, 2007
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Categories: Values

All parents face the dilemma about when, if ever, it is okay to lie to your child. Most parents tell fun lies, such as encouraging their children to believe in Santa or the Tooth Fairy. Some tells lies of convenience, such as telling a child that the stork brought him because they are not ready to tell a very young child the truth about the birds and the bees. We tell our children that they must tell the truth, but we turn around and lie to them for various reasons. No matter how we justify our falsehoods, are they really okay?

Some adoptive parents move on to much bigger lies, such as hiding the fact that they adopted the child in the first place. While these parents might say that they have only lied by omission, in order to perpetuate the lie, they would have to lie about questions concerning their pregnancy, labor, and delivery, all of which never happened. Some parents lie with the best of intentions, such as to protect the child from dealing with heavy issues such as being conceived by rape or incest or to protect the child from being hurt by other unpleasant truths about their history.


Why do we lie to our children? Do we feel ill-equipped to talk about painful realities? Or do we just want to avoid talking about unpleasant things? Are we justified in lying to our adopted children for their own well-being?

I have an adult adoptee friend who was very supportive of me as I was going through the adoption process. She gave me some good advice about parenting an adopted child. She told me never to lie to him about anything related to his adoption.

She shared a story about her adoptive mother lying to her about a relatively minor issue concerning her adoption when she was a teenager. That lie rocked her world and deeply affected her ability to trust her mother. While she did eventually move past this painful place, it could have been avoided if her mother had simply told her the truth.

I confess that my six-year-old son is a big fan of Santa and the Tooth Fairy, but I am always truthful with him when I talk about his adoption. I talk to him about his adoption in a way that he can understand. While there are some unpleasant realities, I try to shine the most positive light I can without being untruthful about his history. However, I am fortunate that most of what I have to share is positive.

I know some adoptive parents who have some very painful realities to share with their adopted children. As painful as they are, I do believe that being honest is the best policy. While sharing sensitive information in an age-appropriate manner is painful in the short run, your child will appreciate your honesty in the long run.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

One Response to “Lying to Your Adopted Child”

  1. Chromesthesia says:

    I hate hate hate that whole stork thing. It drives me insane! Especially once a kid finds out the truth of it. I will not have any future child of mine ignorant about the birds and the bees. No way.
    Also, trust is important. Without a foundation of trust, it makes it hard for a child to grow up and form relationships. Fun little stories like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are one thing, but this is a kid’s life and story and they have every right to know it on an age appropiate basis.

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