When and How to Discuss Adoption with Children Already in the Home

by Michele Fried

When:

When to tell a child already in the home that you are planning to adopt is an answer you will need to decide on your own.  This is very personal and it also depends on the age and development of your child(ren) at home as well as their personalities.

For very young children such as toddlers and preschoolers, it may be best to wait until you are more certain an adoption may take place.  Mostly because a very young child will ask daily, “when will the baby come home?”  Look at the “how” suggestions below and cover these with your young child, but be aware to make themes simple and stress-free.  For the school age child, again depending upon their developmental stage in life, begin to explain more in depth.  Allow them to participate as much as possible but remember especially if they are adopted not to bring them into your feelings of loss, stress, disappointment, and possible sadness over situations that did not work out.

How:

If you have a child(ren) already in the home, whether or not they are adopted, the suggestions below will provide a good beginning for introducing adoption.  If your child was adopted, what an incredible way to begin to remind them of their adoption story, and allow them to experience a sibling adoption.

  1. Have your child write a letter or draw a picture to a new brother or sister to be
  2. Visit the adoption agency if possible to take a look around.
  3. Ask your adoption professionals if your child can bring his/her favorite baby doll at time of placement or before and to sign special adoption papers.
  4. Begin reading adoption stories dealing with adopting a new baby.
  5. Age appropriately discuss the process including the home study as your child will be a part of at least the home visit.
  6. Have your child participate in the profile creation by either submitting a drawing or letter to be added to the profile.
  7. Don’t be afraid to share the uncertainties in the adoption process such as not being selected after being profiled, not knowing how long it may take, birth parents making decisions to parent, and of course not knowing sometimes if the baby is a boy or a girl.
  8. Discuss the varying degrees of open adoption.  If your child at home is already adopted and whether or not your child’s adoption is open, discuss how the next adoption may be different.
  9. If you haven’t already, what a great time to home publish a book about your child’s adoption story and/or birth with their participation and perhaps together begin a book about “waiting for a sibling.” These books can be created easily with photos and words on sites such as Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, etc.
  10. If your child is school age perhaps discuss whether or not adoption has been addressed in the classroom as another way to grow one’s family.  Volunteer to participate to introduce this topic at the school.
  11. Have your child meet other children whose families are expecting to adopt.  Your adoption agency can assist with these introductions.
  12. If you have chosen to decorate a nursery involve your child in the planning.
  13. If your child is currently in a crib or a room that a new baby will move into, be sure to have your first child move into his new room and/or new bed before the arrival of the baby to eliminate the concern that the baby took away his or her space
  14. Have your older child help brainstorm how to baby-proof a house.
  15. Most importantly, have the new baby (even though you will be doing this next task on your own) bring home a gift to his older sibling(s).  It never fails, your first child will be thrilled and depending on their age may actually ask, “how did the baby know I really wanted this?

Finally, whether or not your child at home was adopted or arrived to you by birth, they need to know that they are special and that a new child’s arrival won’t replace them and that they will still be wanted and loved.  Talk about how it may seem that so much attention is given to a new baby but define their important role as your child and as the big brother or big sister that they will become.