I recently wrote an article for our adoption agency’s (Caring for Kids) newsletter. (I mentioned writing this article wayyy back in my March Musings blog post!) The topic – how to talk to your other children about adoption. I realize I never really dove into how we told Z we were planning to adopt. It was, quite honestly, a much easier conversation than I had originally anticipated. Kids are resilient and they understand more than we give them credit for. The moral of the story? Keep it honest and keep it simple. Kids will understand. Here is the article I wrote for the newsletter:
As adults, we can some- times overcomplicate things by trying to find the perfect words or the best way to say or do something. I find the prospect of explaining adoption to my 1 year-old son a bit overwhelming (and I have the greatest open adoption EVER!) Talking about adoption can be quite a daunting task, especially the first few times you do it. However, I think honesty is always the best policy, but I’d add that simplicity is a close second.
Like I said, I have a 1 year-old son who was adopted, but I also have an 8 year-old step son
who needed to understand that his step mom and dad weren’t going to have a baby by being pregnant. One day while eating dinner, my husband and I decided to tell Z (then 6 years-old and in first grade) about adoption and ask him how he felt about getting a sibling in a nontraditional way. Here’s how our conversation went:
Ryann: Z, have you ever heard of adoption? Do you know what that means?
Z: Yeah, it’s like when you go somewhere and you get something and you take it home.
Husband: (Sensing that it sounded like going to the store, tried to probe a little further) Like getting what?
Z: A goldfish.
Ryann: (Thinking, ‘ok, we can go with the pet reference if that’s where his brain is going’) Right, you can adopt animals – like we adopted Agnes and now she’s our dog forever, right?
Ryann: Did you know you can adopt babies as well and they’ll be in your family forever?
Z: Yeah! Like Mrs. F. (his first grade teacher) adopted her son Joey. She always tells us stories about him. (Z then proceeds to tell us some story about school and his teacher.)
Ryann: Well, something is wrong with my tummy, so I can’t grow a baby inside of me.
Z: Why don’t you go to the doctor and have him fix your tummy?
Ryann: Oh sweetie, I have gone to many doctors, but Daddy and I decided to adopt a baby so you can have a brother or a sister. What do you think about that?
Z: Can you make sure I have a brother? I REALLY want a brother! Can we go get my brother today?
We then explained to him that adoption would take awhile, and we’d keep him in the loop whenever we heard about anything else. He was fine with that, and we just continued a normal conversation.
Honesty and simplicity. That’s the best way to go about preparing your other children for bringing home a sibling through adoption. Be honest, keep it simple, age appropriate, and keep the conversation open. Every email we received about a potential baby, we would tell Z. He even helped us write our letters to the expectant mothers. We’ve had Vincent for over a year, Z adores him AND his birthparents. Whenever they’re coming over, Z is THRILLED. An 8 year-old boy understands there’s more than one way to have a child, and there’s more than one set of parents who can love a child. Be honest, keep it simple, and keep communication open. Kids can understand and accept more than you may think.