Adoption is an exciting journey that will change almost everything about your life. Adopting a baby when you already have children at home is a big step for your entire family. Pursuing adoption after you have already had biological children comes with an added challenge: explaining your adoption plans to your children. As a parent, it’s your job to help your biological kids get ready for their new sibling. Here are some recommendations on how to explain adoption to your biological child.
Talk About How Families Can Be Different
Begin the discussion of adoption by explaining how families are different. Some families have lots of kids, and some have just one or two. Some families have all boys or girls. Most families have a mom or dad or both, and many families include grandmas and grandpas. Some families adopt a baby into their homes.
Explain how adoption means bringing a child into your family to grow up as your own child. If the child you’re adopting is of another race, talk to your kids about how families can look different. There’s a good chance they may know kids who were adopted into a family of a different race, so ask them about what they know.
Discuss how some people may be curious why their baby brother or sister has darker or lighter skin than they do. Give them ideas about how they can answer. Talk about how God’s family is multi-colored, and our families on earth are a good representative of this. Reassure your kids of your love for them does not change or lessen with the addition of a sibling. Let them know a heart has limitless love. It grows and expands with every child.
Get Your Kids Involved
As you prepare to welcome a baby into your home through adoption, you’ll be getting things ready. Involve your kids in this process. Ask for their ideas about the baby’s room decor. Take them shopping with you to buy toys and clothing. Let them pick out the toys and maybe buy a matching outfit for them and the baby. This can help them to adjust to their new role as a big brother or sister. Like you, they’ll feel excited about the adoption.
Read Books About Adoption
Today, there are many fiction and non-fiction books about adoption for kids. Spend time together with your child reading these and talking about them. Ask your kids if they have any questions about what you read to them. Sometimes kids have strange ideas about adoption that can be avoided through book reading and discussion.
Reading books can help them to understand better and learn things about adoption they didn’t know. Many of the stories are true, so your children can see what it may be like for them to have a new adopted sibling in their family. This time together with your kids can develop a closer bond as a family and give everyone a vision for adopting.
As you prepare your kids for the adoption, be sure not to sugar coat it. Adoption can sometimes be challenging. The new baby will have many needs, and everyone else in the family will have to adjust. Remind them that they may need to share their toys and your time and attention with the new child. Tell them they may feel irritated sometimes at their new sibling, but that’s okay. It’s all part of learning how to be a family. Families work things out together. Remind your kids that they can always talk to you about any questions, concerns, or things that are bothering them.
If you adopt an older child, explain to your kids that their adopted brother or sister may feel afraid or sad. If there are behavior issues, let your other children know this may be coming from dealing with change and insecurity of joining a new family. Assure your kids that you won’t allow the new sibling to hurt them even if these things happen. You will be in charge, and together as a family, you can help their new sibling learn how to live in a family through prayer, unconditional love, and understanding.
Take It Slow in the Beginning
Explain to your kids that it will take time for everyone to adjust. Tell them that you may not be going on vacation or to see grandma right away because it’s best not to have too many changes for their newly adopted sibling. These things will occur at some point, but not too soon after the adopted sibling arrives.
If you’re adopting a baby, the baby will need to develop a routine for feeding, naps, and bedtimes. This can help them adjust to all the changes going on around them. Explain to your kids that the adopted baby will be happier staying home and just learning about their new family. Discuss how this makes your biological kids feel. They may feel resentful and tempted by not getting to do things. So, give them time to ask questions so you can help them.
All of your children will take their cues from you. If you remain positive and loving, your children will too. There may be better days than others, but if everyone in the family knows that you are all in this together and that every child is loved equally and treated fairly, you will find the fun, loving days far outnumber any difficult days you might have.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”