Both wonderful and frightening, the decision to have a child is a huge one. In many ways, adoption is a lot like pregnancy and, like pregnancy, it’s not something children always understand. For children, change is always dicey because it causes a lot of confusion and encourages many questions. While things can get a little complicated, explaining adoption to your children is the best way to prepare them for it as well as help them understand and, even, respect it.
As a parent, you want to make things easy for your children, but you also want to be truthful and straightforward because it helps them grow and form their own opinions.
Sometimes it’s easy to explain things to your children, while other subjects, like adoption, can be harder. This guide will help mothers explain adoption to their children in a way they can truly understand.
Adoptive mother feeding her adopted child
Explaining Adoption: Birth Mothers Who Have Created An Adoption Plan for Their Child in the Past
Explaining adoption can be difficult on both ends of the spectrum, but for Birth Mothers who have created an adoption plan for their child in the past, it becomes much harder. There are a lot of questions that come with this decision already, but when your children learn that they have unknown siblings that were adopted years before they came along, they may be wondering why.
Depending upon the age of your children, how you explain this to them is very important. Becoming defensive or flippant will only lead to more questions, and it could also lead to a lack of trust between your children and you. In short, honesty is the best policy when explaining adoption to your children. To help move things along, try the following:
  • Make a Point to Explain It: Starting out with secrets is never a good idea, which is why you should make a point to explain the previous adoption to your children. Don’t let them find out on their own, as this can lead to serious questions and trust issues. Instead, decide at what age you would like to have the conversation, and plan accordingly. Do your research on how to explain this concept to children of different ages, and do your best to prepare for their feelings and reactions.
  • Answer Their Questions: For some children, the issue may be very black and white: either you were ready and able to raise your other baby or you weren’t. It is your job to answer all their questions so that they understand your decision to create an adoption plan for your child in the past was not something negative, but something necessary.
    No matter the circumstances surrounding your decision—you were too young, you weren’t financially stable, you didn’t feel able to handle the responsibility at that stage in your life, you didn’t feel you could provide what the child needed, etc – be open and honest with your children, now, so that they won’t make assumptions or become judgmental. This is such a delicate subject for both you and your children, and being honest will help things run much more smoothly.
  • Be Prepared for the Aftermath: When your child or children learn they have sibling out in the world, they may become interested in knowing more about this person. There may be a number of reasons why you do or do not stay in touch with your other child, and you must explain this to your current kids.
    Perhaps the sibling does not know they’re adopted, they don’t want to be contacted, or there may be a strained relationship between the two of you—each of these factors and more will play into what comes next. If you already know that there can be no relationship between your children, be honest with them. If, however, there is a good chance that they can meet and it would be a positive experience for everyone, do what you can to arrange it.
Explaining adoption to biological children
Explaining Adoption: Adoptive Parents Explaining Why They Want to Adopt to Their Biological Children
Perhaps you already have a child or children, and you have decided to have another—but this time, you want to adopt. In this scenario, your children will still have a lot of questions, and it is up to you to explain things to them. Some reactions may be negative, which can be frustrating and discouraging, but they’re natural and you have to prepare for them. To make things easier on your children, take these factors into account when explaining why you want to adopt:
  • The Age of Your Children: There can be a number of reasons why you want to adopt, but not all of them can be easily explained to young children. Some of the heavier reasons, such as infertility or complications that come with pregnancy or becoming pregnant, are too confusing for them to understand, so it may be better to leave those reasons out until they’re older.
    Depending on the age, watch appropriate movies and read books about adoption that explain both the technical and emotional details to help them understand. If your children are older and would understand these more complicated reasons, be as honest as possible with them. When you treat children like adults, they’re more likely to act accordingly. Not to mention, this is an exciting time, so make it a reason to celebrate the growth of the family.
  • Let Them Know It’s Not About Them: Sometimes children have a hard time with adoption because they don’t want to “share” their parents with someone else or don’t understand why they want to have children outside of the biological family. While this may seem selfish, it’s actually incredibly natural and a sign of insecurity. Reassure your children that you love them deeply, and that your decision to adopt has nothing to do with replacing them or even disliking them.
    Be clear about how you are helping the adopted child by providing a home and supportive family that will love them. If the child you are adopting comes from difficult circumstances, don’t be afraid to be honest about this as well as it can help your children feel and show more compassion. Plus, telling them that they are great siblings will be another assurance and encouragement to love this new child.
  • Involve Them in the Process: If you’re able, involve your children in the adoption process. Let the children meet their new sibling, encourage activities together, emphasize things they have in common, and so on. When your children already have a bond, it becomes so much easier for acceptance and love to grow. You can also encourage your children to buy or make a present for their new sibling to help express their emotions as well.
Involving biological children in the adoption process
Explaining adoption to your children can be hard, but you’re up for the challenge. Whether you had to create an adoption plan for your child, or you’re looking to adopt, your other children are sure to have questions. Be patient, be honest, and be clear with them—it might be easier than you think.