Here's how to approach the subject about telling your other children about your adoption plan.
It is very common for pregnant women with older children to choose adoption for their child.
Sometimes, the fact that a woman already has children plays a role in her adoption decision—she clearly understands the challenges associated with parenting and may not have the emotional or financial capacity to take on parenting yet another child. This doesn't mean she loves her unborn baby any less—she just may have a more realistic view on what she's able to provide and view adoption as the best possible decision for her older children and her unborn baby.
It can be really hard to talk about this decision with your other children about adoption. You are likely experiencing your own conflicting emotions, and it will be tough to explain all of this to your children.
They will have a front-row seat to watching your pregnancy progress and may be getting very excited about becoming a big brother or big sister. That’s why, if possible, it is best to start this conversation early to help them wrap their heads around it and better process it at the time of placement.
In many cases, it can be helpful to meet with an adoption counselor to get tips on how to talk to your children given your specific situation. Involving a professional can help put you at ease and give you support and guidance in having this conversation.
However, aside from receiving professional assistance, we do have some general pointers on how to introduce and continue the conversation about adoption with your children.
- Adoption can be a confusing concept for young children to understand and it is best not to over-explain it. Don’t overwhelm them with too much information on why you are making this decision—instead, it may be enough to just tell them that you had to make a very hard decision about the new baby.
- Here is a good example of what could be said to a younger child: “You know Mommy is going to have a baby, but there’s another family out there who can’t have a baby on their own. It’s been a really hard decision, but I’ve decided that this baby is going to live with that family, where they will be loved and cared for just as much as if they lived with us. I love all of my kids so much, but the way I can love this baby best is by allowing another family to adopt them. The way I can love you best is by being your mommy and taking care of you forever.”
- Older children can probably have a more in-depth conversation about adoption regarding what it means and why you are choosing it. This will be an ongoing conversation, so you can slowly introduce the topic with them and flesh it out as they process it and ask more questions. Make sure you give them openings to ask more questions in the days and weeks and even years that follow. They need to know they can ask you anything, anytime!
- Ultimately, feel confident that you know your children best and you know how to speak to them. You know their tendencies, level of understanding, and can anticipate how they might respond. Trust your gut and share what you think is important for them to know based on their age and your own comfort level.
Be Open & Honest:
- Honesty truly is the best policy. Making an adoption plan is a really hard thing to keep a secret, especially when your children can see that you are pregnant. Being honest can help your children feel more secure in their relationship with you. You want them to be confident that they can come to you with questions and receive honest answers. This adoption decision is lifelong, so you want to start out on the right foot by being honest because that will build more trust for everyone involved.
- The earlier you can introduce this topic, the better because this will give your children more time to process and they won’t feel like you were hiding something from them.
- Keep the conversation going—feelings might fluctuate throughout the process. As time goes on, it’s helpful to keep the conversation open so everyone can ask questions and express concerns as they come up. Try not to “make a big deal” about talking about the adoption plan. Refer to it whenever it naturally comes up. You don’t want adoption to be the elephant in the room. The best way to prevent that is to address it.
Talk about Feelings:
- Be open and authentic about the different emotions that you are experiencing as a part of making this decision—this will help your children see that it was a hard decision for you to make. It also gives them permission to feel and experience their own emotional highs and lows if you are modeling that for them.
- And while it’s good to be authentic, it’s also important to put on a brave face and remain positive overall for your children so they can have more peace and comfort in knowing that their sibling will be well cared for. Young children probably cannot understand the complexity of adoption grief, so do your best to be real but also stay strong for them. If you are having an especially difficult moment or day, it may be best to process that outside of their presence.
- Your children will likely also experience conflicting emotions about the adoption— and that’s okay. Reassure them that it is okay to feel sad, but remind them that a lot of good things will come for their sibling and they will have a great life. Tell them it’s okay to feel a mixture of emotions about it.
Involve Them in the Adoption Process:
- It might be really scary for your child to think about their sibling going to live with strangers that they don’t know—therefore, it could be helpful to involve them in the process to help them feel better about the baby’s new family.
- Don’t feel like you have to go outside of your comfort zone, but depending on your limits it could be good to let them review prospective adoptive family profiles with you, or at least meet them via phone, Skype or in-person once you have picked out the right family.
- Your children may also want to draw a picture, make a craft or buy a special toy or blanket that the adoptive parents can take home for the child to put in his/her room. Consider giving the adoptive family a picture of you and your children for the baby to have as well.
- Additionally, your children can and should be a part of the Post-Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA), which will outline what kind of contact you all will have with the baby for the years to come. This can include the exchanging of letters, emails, pictures, phone calls, video chats, and even in-person visits that your children can all participate in along with you. Sibling contact can be a wonderful, natural way of interacting with the child you place.
Reassure Your Children:
- Tell them that the baby will always be your son/daughter and their sister/brother and that nothing will ever change that! Even though they are being adopted by a new family, that doesn’t diminish the bond or lessen the biological relationship.
- Assure them that you love them very much and that you also love the baby, even though the baby can’t live with you. Seeing you place the baby for adoption could be a little scary and confusing to them, but that’s why communication and an open, ongoing conversation are so important.
- Tell them they are safe in your home and that you will continue to take care of them just like before and the other family will take care of the baby.
Perhaps most importantly, remember to always keep the conversation going about the adoption. Feelings can change and evolve and certain milestones can drudge up feelings of grief. An open, ongoing dialogue about the adoption will help your process everything over time. Always encourage them to talk about it, ask questions, and express their emotions—both happy and sad.