If you are parenting and planning to expand your family through adoption, your child will likely be very curious about what this means for them and for your family. It is important to prepare your child for an adoptive sibling by discussing what it means with them. Encourage your child to ask questions, and respond with honest and age appropriate answers
Planning, Home Study, and Wait Time
As you are probably aware, every adoption includes a home study to determine if your home is s safe physical and emotional place for a child. As part of the home study, the social worker will need to speak with your child in an age appropriate way about the adoption. You should explain this process to your child. Explain that the social worker is coming to your home to ensure it is a safe place for a new baby or child. Explain that the social worker will ask them how they feel about having a new sibling, and may also ask them what they know and how they feel about adoption. Children should be reassure that there is no “right” answer and they can answer truthfully about their feelings.
It is also important to manage your child’s expectations about the adoption. If you do not know when their adoptive sibling will join your family (which is usually the case), you should discuss the adoption as a plan for sometime in the future. Do not give your child a specific length of time that it will take to adopt.
One of the most important things to remember is that children should not be asked to keep secrets: If there’s anything about the adoption that you want to keep private, don’t ask your child to hold that secret as well. Do not share that information with your child or allow them to overhear you discussing confidential information with another person.
It is also important to prepare your child for potentially intrusive questions from others. These may include questions about why the sibling does not share their race or ethnicity or questions about who their sibling’s “real” parents are. Explain that they are not required to answer questions from strangers. Role-play possible scenarios your child might face using positive adoption language. Your child will follow your lead. If you respond to questions with confidence and pride, they will too.
Just as in all cases where a new sibling comes into the home, make special time for your older child, and show empathy for his or her adjustment. As you participate in your child’s activities, introduce them to the idea of sharing these activities with a little brother or sister. Bring up the idea as you go through your daily routines. The goal is to make the plan familiar to your child, and to cultivate their excitement at becoming an older sibling.
During a Match and Pre-Finalization
Discussing a match with a birth family is a tricky part of the process to navigate with your child. During the match and placement, but before the birthparents sign the paperwork to terminate their parental rights, avoid calling the baby “your brother/sister”. During this stage of the adoption, tell your child that your family is taking care of the baby while the birthparent decides if she/he will be able to parent.
If a birthparent reclaims the baby after placement, it is very important to discuss it with your child, even if they are not bringing it up. Make sure your child knows the baby is going to be okay, and that your child did not cause the reclaim. You should also ensure your child understands that he or she will never be taken away. You can let your child know that your plans are still the same: you will eventually expand your family, but this just was not the time.
Its Your Responsibility
Even if child is not bringing up the topic they are still having thoughts and feelings about your adoption plans. It is your job as a parent to initiate the conversation by asking questions about how they are feeling.
It is important to note that children’s questions don’t indicate regret regarding their or their siblings adoption, nor do they automatically imply a negative emotional reaction. It is most likely just a natural curiosity and a desire for logical answers.