“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
My response is always the same, “Yes, in age-appropriate language and prior to adolescence.”
Telling the truths, even the difficult ones, is part of being open with your child. Telling the truths offers opportunities to examine and discuss, without judgment, what happened and sheds light on the “why,” assuaging the power of secrets.
You are entrusted with your child and get to “share” in in their story, however all of the known details of your child’s story belong to them. It is not your “right” to alter their story or hold back any truths from your child. It is not your place to avoid the truths simply because they make you uncomfortable or you believe you are protecting your child. These details are part of you child’s story, part of her reality, and important for identity formation.
The difficult truths include subjects like abandonment, mental illness, illegal activity, and abuse (mental, physical, substance, sexual, neglect).
Do not lie, however omissions may be called for IF developmentally appropriate. If this is the case parents still need to ensure that their child has all of the details to her story prior to adolescence when more complex processing about adoption is taking place, identity formation is “key,” and she may have begun to try to tune her parents out and focus on peer relationships.
Allow your child to be angry at her birth parent(s) without hopping on the bandwagon. She is entitled to express the emotions she feels. You, however, are not. What you can do is acknowledge how she feels, and why.
Kids have amazing perceptions. They are very effective at uncovering the truth. Wouldn’t it be awful if she discovered that you’d broken her trust? And once this has happened it’s very difficult to build trust again.
For Discussion: How have you felt about sharing some of the difficult truths with your child? Why? What has helped you be truthful?