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There is no hiding your child’s adoption from your other children.
Somehow, while you try to take care of yourself, process your emotions, and return to your daily life, you’ll also need to find a way to talk to your other children about their sibling’s adoption.
This may not be easy, but the good news is that you have more control than you realize over how your children respond. Kids process information based upon how it is presented to them; if you present the adoption as a good thing, then that’s how they’ll process it. Here are four important tips to keep in mind when you talk to your children about their sibling’s adoption.
1. Be honest.
Children always pick up on our emotions, even when we don’t state them out loud. No matter how hard you try to act normal, your kids will realize that something is going on, and if you don’t talk about it they will become confused and even frightened. Don’t try to cover up your feelings – instead, be honest about them. Let your child know that you are going through a difficult time and are feeling down. Most importantly, don’t try to keep the adoption a secret and pretend that nothing has happened or that the baby died. No matter how careful you are about keeping the secret, your child will almost definitely find out about it one day, and consider this: Would you rather your child hear the news from you, or from your aunt when she’s mad at you or your niece when they’re playing together outside?
2. Use words they understand.
Honesty is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to explain everything you’ve been through with this pregnancy and adoption to your toddler or very young child. It’s okay to simply say, “It would be too hard for mommy to take care of the baby right now, so the baby is going to live with another family. Sometimes mommy misses the baby and feels sad about that, but she also feels happy that the baby has a family who loves them very much.”
3. Reassure them.
It is natural for your child to feel upset or uneasy when they learn about the adoption. They will likely be afraid that if the baby went away, you might go away, or that they, too, will have to go live with another family. They’ll need to hear you say frequently that you are not going anywhere, that they are going to continue to live with you, and that you will always take care of them. Children often believe that they are responsible for unhappy events, so you’ll also want to reassure them that it is not their fault that the baby went to live somewhere else or that you are feeling sad.
4. Help them express their feelings.
Encourage your child to express his/her feelings by drawing a picture or writing a story or poem. Research has shown that drawing and writing reduce children’s anxiety and can also help parents to understand how their child is feeling. While you’re at it, why not sit down and write or draw with them? You’ll both have an outlet for your feelings, and your presence will reinforce the fact that they don’t have to worry about losing you.
Still worried or uncertain about how to address adoption with your other children? Talk to your adoption counselor! They can help you figure out what to say and can even meet with you and your child together.
How did you talk to your other children about their sibling’s adoption? Share your story in the comments section below.