DEAR ABBY: In a recent column you advised "Clueless in Michigan" to delay telling her daughter that her stepfather is not her biological parent until she is old enough to understand the difference.
NO! Tell her NOW, when she is TOO YOUNG to understand. It should not be done directly, but by occasionally and casually referring to her "other father." If she knows all along that she had "another father," then it will not be a great shock later on when she is able to understand.
The same holds true for adopted children, Abby. From the day they are adopted, they should occasionally be referred to as adopted. Then, when they are old enough to ask, they should be told what it means. -- ROWENA SPENCER, M.D., RETIRED PEDIATRIC SURGEON
DEAR DR. SPENCER: Your thinking makes sense. Thank you for writing. When a fact is presented to a child who is too young to question it, the child simply accepts it. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I agree the baby should be told her father had adopted her, but why wait? Do it right away!
My parents adopted me when I was only 6 days old. From the first minute I was home with them, they began the process of making me comfortable with being adopted. They always referred to me as an infant as their special adopted child. They told me stories all through my childhood about the king and queen who were very sad because they couldn't have children of their own, so they went on a long journey and found a beautiful baby girl by the river who they adopted as their own and made their princess.
They gave birth to a "natural" daughter 10 months after I was born, and when we fought as children -- like ALL children do -- I had been made to feel so special that I often turned the tables and told her, "Well, Mom and Dad didn't get to CHOOSE you!"
I am 28 years old now and have never for a moment had any issues concerning being adopted. I have never for a moment felt a void in my life, or a need to contact my "real" parents. I'm being married in six months, and my real sister is my maid of honor, my real dad is walking me down the aisle, and my real mom is going to be with me every step of the way.
Babies are never too young to understand things on some level, and the best answer to the question of "When did you find out you were adopted?" is, "I've ALWAYS known." -- TOGETHER IN TORONTO
DEAR TOGETHER: Your signature says it all. Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding. If there is any question in any reader's mind about when a child should be told it is adopted, I think you have answered that question once and for all.