It is not uncommon for women considering adoption to have other children that they are raising in their home, and you are not alone if you are struggling to explain your baby’s adoption to your other children.
If you are placing your child for adoption and need help explaining the situation to his or her siblings, consider the following guidelines to help you with your discussion:
- Be open and honest – Any time you’re talking with children about adoption, you should be honest from the beginning. Just as adoptive parents should openly discuss their child’s adoption story with him or her early on, you should introduce the topic of adoption to your children sooner rather than later. If possible, begin explaining your decision and the adoption process while you are pregnant.
- Use age-appropriate language – While you should always be honest with your children about adoption, you shouldn’t overwhelm them with information. For very young children, it might be best to tell them that you had to make a hard decision but that the new baby can’t live with you. Instead of trying to explain the complexities of adoption, you might simply tell them that there is another family that needs the baby because they can’t have one on their own.
- Share your feelings – For many birth moms and women considering adoption, adoption is a subject that brings up a wide range of emotions — sometimes all at once. Instead of hiding this from your children, let them know that it is OK to feel a mix of emotions. Tell them that you are having difficult feelings, too, even though you are happy with your decision.
- Respect your children’s feelings – Your adoption will have an impact on your children, and it’s important to let them know that you are there to help them with any difficult feelings they might be having. Listen as they process the news of the adoption and express their own feelings. Let them ask questions, and tell them you understand their sadness, frustration or anger.
- Reassure them – Adoption is a difficult concept to process for young minds. Assure your children that you love them and that you also love the baby you are placing very much. Tell them that they are safe in your home and that you will continue to take care of them while someone else takes care of their sibling. Remind them that the baby will always be your son or daughter and their brother or sister, no matter what.
Using these guidelines, it may be helpful to write out some of your thoughts before sharing them with your children. If you need ideas for how to bring up the topic of adoption in conversation, talk with your adoption specialist, counselor or another adoption professional for help developing a plan.
Continuing to Talk About Adoption
As you go through the adoption process, it is important to keep communication open. Continue to share your feelings with your children and invite them to do the same. It may help to make adoption a normal part of everyday life and conversation. Books and movies can be a great way to help introduce adoption to your children. While it may be difficult to find a story that perfectly mirrors your adoption journey, these books and movies may be a good place to start:
- Sam’s Sister by Juliet C. Bond
- The Rainbow Egg by Linda Hendricks
- The Mulberry Bird by Anne Braff Brodzinsky
Based on your child’s age and their feelings toward the adoption, it might also be beneficial to involve them in the process. Have them write letters or draw pictures to send with the baby, let them help you choose a special gift to give or contribute to a keepsake book. If you feel comfortable with it, you might even let them help look through print and video profiles and meet the adoptive family. Including your children in the adoption process can help make them feel important and give them a sense of stability and control.
As you read more about adoption and talk with your adoption specialist, you will hear that adoption is a lifelong process. The same is true for your children. No matter what happens, this baby will always be connected to you and your family, and his or her adoption will have a lifelong impact on all of you. Continue to create an environment where it is okay to talk about adoption and share feelings.