Talking to siblings-to-be about adoption

Adoptive families come in all shapes and sizes and are rich in diversity. One of these varieties of family is one in which there are already children before parents start thinking about adoption. If you already have children and are thinking of expanding your family through adoption, you might know that this is the right next step to grow your family but not be quite sure how to involve your children about the process.

  • Be honest: Depending on how old your children are, there may be more or less that you want to share with them. With a very young child, you might just share with them that they will soon have a new sibling and explain how adoption works in very broad strokes. With older children, you might explain in more depth just why you want to grow your family in this way or why their soon-to-be sibling is joining the family. You should be as honest as possible with them, and because you’ll share more with them as all your children grow, this isn’t the time to avoid honesty.
  • Focus on love: Speaking of honesty, make sure when talking to your biological child or children about a new sibling, that your focus is on love – the idea that you’re growing your family in this way because you all have so much love to share. You love your current child or children, you love your adopted child, and your hope is that all of your children will love each other immensely too.
  • Prepare to celebrate and embrace differences: Many families adopt children of a different race. And while sometimes adults can very quickly get very uncomfortable when acknowledging or talking about this kind of difference, that’s not what you should do with your children. Indeed, this should be something you talk openly about. Talk with your children about their soon-to-be sibling’s race, culture, nationality, and ethnicity. As your family grows, it will be an inclusive one, so you should celebrate these differences.
  • Anticipate worries and reassure them: Depending on how old your children are, there may be a lot that they don’t understand about adoption. As is sometimes the case with young children, if they only half understand certain things, that murkiness can lead to confusion or worry. While it’s important to be honest, it’s important to try to be aware of ways in which talking to your little ones about adoption might cause concern or worry. Focusing on your family’s love and stability as a starting point for adoption can help to reassure young children. Finally, be prepared for complex emotions, and emotions that may change and shift throughout the adoption process. Adding a new child to the mix is a major change in any family, and it’s natural for the emotional journey surrounding the new arrival to include intense feelings, which may include highs and lows.
  • Be careful about the language you use: In a similar vein, as you are honest and anticipate worries, be careful about the words you use to describe adoption and your family’s new addition. Use language your child can understand, based on their age. And if you use language like “special,” “selected,” or “chosen” child to describe your adopted child, your birth children might feel different or less loveable because you are describing the adoptive child this way.
  • Start a dialogue and encourage questions: Again, sometimes the most worry can come from children misunderstanding or not fully understanding things. One of best things you can do is talk openly with your little ones about adoption – a dialogue and conversation that will surely only continue and grow over the years- and then encourage them to ask questions or talk with you anytime they have questions or concerns. And keep in mind that it needs to be an ongoing conversation – just a few conversations won’t cut it. Think of this as just where the conversation starts.
  • Include them in the process: You might be unsure of how to include your children in the process of adding another child to the family, but depending on how old they are, include them in all the ways that feels appropriate. From helping shop for your new child, or choosing special gifts, to drawing pictures and decorating a room, to being involved in adoption meetings or home visits. You may also want to bring children to meet other adoptive families so that they can understand that the way your family is growing is both normal and special, and that other adoptive families are out there too. This ensures that you’ll give your child time to adjust to the idea of having a child and that the new child’s arrival is not a surprise. All of these instances present a great opportunity for your little one to get more comfortable with the idea of having a new sibling, talk with you about things and ask any questions that have been on their mind, and, of course, get excited about the child’s arrival!

Adding a new family member through adoption is an involved process, and having children already just adds another layer of complexity to the mix. All families arend complex in their own unique ways. Indeed, growing a family and gaining a sibling is a beautiful thing and something to celebrate.

  • “Preparing your child for a sibling.” Adoptive Families. Adoptive Families. Retrieved September 14 2018.
  • “Siblings and adoption: What it means to your child.” American Adoptions News. American Adoptions. Retrieved September 14 2018.
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