When I speak with adoptees and adoptive family members and ask them about their experiences growing up, inevitably they say that there is nothing remarkable about their lives. The situation they grew up in was normal to them. They never knew a different life—traditional with parents of the same race, only biological siblings, etc. This is especially true of younger siblings of adopted children. Their older siblings, though adopted, are no different than any other sibling would be. Adopted or biological, an older brother or sister is simply an older sibling. So this begs the question: How important is it that discussions about adoption take place for the benefit of younger siblings?
In a family where adoption is not kept secret, lots of assumptions are made. In our family, for example, our adopted son fits right smack in the middle of our 5 kids. We have two older biological children and two younger. We’ve never been secretive about adoption and thought we talked openly about it. But apparently, we weren’t open enough. Our youngest child learned that her brother was adopted at school. Who would have thought?! We were completely surprised that she didn’t know—after all, her brother is multiracial and has very brown skin. Of all the ways we would blow it as parents, we never imagined that not talking directly enough about adoption would be one of them.
If we could do it all again, we’d include the following in family life:
During our weekly family meetings, we would give each child a chance to share something special about themselves. Included in that sharing, my husband and I would share one special memory of each of them. We would be intentional about talking about their first words, their sweet entrances into the world, how much we prayed for each of them, and the gift each is to us. That would always include mention of gratitude for adoption and those who sacrificed to make it happen.
When special school projects are required, we would encourage something related to families. We would suggest including mention of adoption and the special place it has in our family.
We would include mention of our son’s birth family more frequently in our family prayers, thus inviting discussion as questions come to our children’s minds.
All that being said, our adopted son has always said that adoption is a non-issue for him. He says that it’s just part of who he is, like being a boy scout or having had braces. For us, his parents, to make more of an issue about adoption than showing gratitude would be to single him out and possibly add to a feeling of exclusion. In our family, all of us—including the adopted and the biological children—are grateful for adoption in the same way we are grateful for the gift of pregnancy. Neither came easily for our family and we know that each of our children is a miracle. They were equally prayed for and equally loved. There should be a good balance between teaching about adoption and not making it too big of an issue.