Adoption can be a daunting concept even to an adult pursuing the process. Imagine being a child whose parents are adding a child to your family through adoption. The control is completely out of their hands and the choices are that of their parents. Children are not often kept in the loop nor given information about where their family is in the adoption process. Many times, they have no idea when they might welcome a sibling. The simple unknowns of this process can be incredibly unnerving and exciting all at once. It makes little sense not to appease these fears and involve your older children in the adoption process by discussing them with them. The adoption will affect the family unit as a whole and should include the involvement of all members.
Communication is key when it comes to discussing with an older child about adding a sibling to your family through adoption. Keeping the child apprised of important information will help appease concerns. While it is often difficult to provide an exact timeline, the peace of knowing that you will communicate information when you have it will be incredibly helpful. Allowing your child to be open and remaining willing to seriously address concerns will be imperative to effectively discuss adoption with your child and build a strong foundation for a healthy sibling relationship. General communication will be the key to inviting your child to not only participate in the adoption process but to help them to feel confident in knowing they will be heard if they come to you with concerns or questions.
While it’s always important to speak to your child in a tone and with raising that is appropriate for their age, the best approach to discussing adoption with your older child is to remain open with them. Let them know the details that you feel are understandable for their age. If there are things that happened in the adoption process that are not necessarily happy moments, let them in on those when you feel appropriate. They should know what’s going on and feel like you are going, to be honest throughout the process rather than having them sit and worry that they do not have the true details of what is happening. It is also a great lesson for your older child to understand that sometimes things are quite difficult in life, and there are a lot of roadblocks that we have to persevere through to get to the end goal. Create a space of openness so, hopefully, your child feels comfortafeelscoming with you with any questions.
And the spirit of openness, begin discussing adoption with your older children while you are still considering adoption. Having your children be a part of the process from the very beginning will be very helpful in making them feel like they are actually a part of the process.
You may also find that your children bring up concerns that they have that you can quickly address or maybe did not think about. Regardless, it’s important to remember that this decision not only affects you but your entire family unit. While that’s common sense, our society typically underestimates the value of children and their input in everyday decisions. While they’re not going to make the ultimate decision, including them and being open with them about the process from the beginning, eliminating a lot of the surprise and mystery, will just make for a better situation all around.
When my husband and I were going to adopt, adoption happened to us quite suddenly. It was a kinship situation that we did not have a lot of the advantages of being open from the very beginning. However, as soon as we were able to we involved our older son. While he didn’t ultimately make any decision, we made sure that he knew the timeline as we knew it. We also made sure that we were open with our communication.
Communicating with your older child about adopting does not stop when you tell them that you are adopting. The communication needs to be ongoing throughout the adoption process and even after the adoption has taken place. Communicating with your older child about adoption will help them to feel free to express their concerns and their needs. It will also help them to feel that they are an ongoing part of the process.
Ongoing communication might include regular check-ins with your child to see how they are feeling about the adoption. You could also include family meetings where you discuss where you are in the adoption process. This communication may also be communicating struggles or fears that you have personally. Being open and providing this opportunity for ongoing communication will help your whole family unit to feel like they are united in this process.
Ongoing communication needs to extend to after the adoption has been completed. While the child that you adopt will be every bit a part of your family as your other children, there will be times that will need to take to adjust and to bond. This will not only be you bonding with your new child, but your children bonding with the child as well.
The check-ins need to continue once the child has been brought home. Checking in with your older children to see how they are feeling about the adoption and the bonding process will be vital. Not only will this allow you to see how your child is feeling, but it will also help you to give your child the tools to effectively bond with their sibling if there are any issues. It will also help your child to be able to communicate their highs and lows and their feelings on adoption in general. Just as you will communicate with your new child, communicating with your older child after the adoption has been finalized will continue to provide the foundation for healthy relationships.
Adopting a child or adoption, in general, can bring a lot of unknowns. It is only normal that your child might have some fears and concerns that need to be addressed. If you have ever added another child to your family through adoption or not, you may have experienced a child having general fears that come with simply adding a new family member. A common concern or fear is not getting enough attention. They may also worry about what the child will be like. Your child may also have other fears if they have been through a failed adoption before or if they were adopted themselves.
A common fear that older children may have is the fear that stems from simply not knowing enough about adoption. This was very common for my children each time we have adopted. It was a little less the second time around, but there are just so many unknowns about adoption and so much that is shown in the media that is incorrect. A lot of the fears we had to dispel for our children were directly related to these myths. My oldest child feared that the children who are adopted would one day have to go back to live with their birth parents. As we have open adoptions, they now see that is not the case and that we are all very connected. This can definitely be a fear for a child who has been a part of a family who has done foster care and seen multiple kids reunified.
Your child may also have fears that are rooted in things that other people have told them about adoption. My children have dealt with multiple people who have told them awful things about adoption including that their adopted siblings are not their real siblings. However, this is why it is so important to educate our children on adoption and educate our children on the fact that there are many ways to build a family.
Keeping communication open for our children and giving them the courage to come with us with any issues they might have; will help them to be able to navigate the opinions of others better. Make it known to them that they should speak to you if there is an issue or if someone asks them a question that they are not prepared to answer. Also, permit them to refuse to answer a question with which they are not comfortable. Just as this will be true for the child you adopt, the adoption story of your family is only your story to tell if you so choose.
It is important, with any fear, that we validate our children, and don’t make them feel silly for feeling that way. Note that you understand their fear and understand how they would feel that way. Then, find ways to reassure them or even to expound on their fear. Not every fear can be reassured away or written off. Some of these fears may be legitimate and very valid. However, you can reassure your child that you will be there to guide them and protect them from the consequences of any of these fears should they come to fruition.
Once you have established open communication with your older child about your adoption process, it is important that you further provide them resources outside of the family to help them cope with the adoption journey. These resources may include your adoption agency or may expand to other families who have adopted. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney may be able to put you in touch with other families who have children who have gone through the adoption experience as well and could be confidants for your children.
If your children are old enough, they may be able to find some adoption support groups to join online. One great place to look is through the Facebook group I Love Adoption by Adoption.com. You can also search for multiple articles on sites like Adoption.com and Adoption.org. These can help you to better communicate with your older child about the adoption experience. These sites are also great resources to help answer questions about the adoption process that your child may have. You can also go on the Facebook community and to the answers and forum section on Adoption.com to ask questions that your child may bring up or to get advice on speaking to your older child about adoption.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule or answer about how to speak with your older child about adoption, these are definitely some tools that you can use. Open communication, general openness, ongoing communication, and addressing all of your child’s fears will be vital to establishing a foundation for successful relationships when you bring your new child home.
It is easy to sometimes forget as adoptive parents that this adoption is also happening to our children and not just us. This is not said to imply that we somehow forget our older children, but adoption is a very adult decision that we sometimes tend to leave children out of in general. However, any decisions that they can be a part of will further help initiate and build that bond between them and the new child.
When they feel like they have been a part of a decision, when they are apprised of information along the way, this will do much better to prepare them for the child to come home. We must realize and acknowledge the fact that adoption is a very different situation than children are often used to. While the child will be just as much a part of the family as if you had given birth to them, the process is very different and very foreign. However, the more we can communicate with our children about the process and the more we can keep them involved throughout, the more it will feel less foreign and become their normal.
Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.