Adoption is a difficult topic to bring up--particularly with the children that you decided to keep.
Adoption is a wonderful thing. Not only does it allow a childless couple the opportunity to have a child of their own, but it also enables a birth parent to give their baby a better life. And, yet, adoption is a difficult topic to bring up--particularly with the children that you decided to keep.
Your "first born"
If you put your first child up for adoption, but went on to have a family later on, you are not alone. As women become older, better emotionally prepared for motherhood, and more financially secure, they often decide to keep the children conceived after the adoption.
One common struggle, however, is how to tell the children you kept about the one you gave up. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Be prepared for varying reactions. Your children may experience a myriad of different emotions ranging from feelings of betrayal, loss, and insecurity to excitement or a desire to connect with the long-lost sibling. Some children may experience a mix of all of the above. It is imperative that you are prepared for each reaction and how you will handle it.
- Provide reassurance. Some children may feel threatened by the existence of an unknown sibling that could, in their eyes, return and displace them. It is important that you reassure them that they are "irreplaceable" and that their place in your heart is secure.
- Be age-appropriate. It is important to bear in mind that children are not able to grasp the concept of adoption until they are at least four--and, even then, their understanding will be rudimentary. Before bringing up the topic, try introducing it through books and movies that are congruent with their developmental level. Not sure which movies to pick? Check out this list of movies with adoption themes.
- Help them relate. It is difficult for a child to understand concepts like financial unpreparedness, a lack of support networks, emotional immaturity, and other factors that may have motivated you to put your first born up for adoption. You can, however, help them understand by drawing on your child's own experiences. When they were younger, did they have a pet that you ended up caring for, a paper route that they found difficult to commit to, or some other task that was beyond their level of maturity at the time? Perhaps, now they may be better prepared to handle said task. The same can be said of your decision to put a baby up for adoption and your subsequent decisions to keep your other children.
Your Newest Arrival
If you have children, but have decided to put your baby-to-be up for adoption, you may be finding it difficult to explain the impending adoption to your kids. Here are a few tips to help you and your children cope.
- Be Age Appropriate. Again, remember to introduce the concept of adoption in a non-threatening way via an age appropriate movie or book. For a list of children's books on the topic of adoption, check out Goodreads Popular Children's Books on Adoption shelf.
- Make them feel safe. It is important to make sure that your children know that their position within the household is permanent. They may fear that since you're putting the new baby up for adoption, you may give them up too.
- Accentuate the positive. Share your own joy over being able to help a "mommy and daddy" who can't have children of their own have a baby. Your excitement will prove contagious.
- Let them be a part of it. Depending on the age and developmental readiness of your children, you may choose to allow them to help you choose the adoptive parents by looking at pictures or watching videos with you. You can also create a keepsake with them for the baby to take with them to their new home. Some ideas include drawing a picture, writing a note, or making a personal craft for the baby.
- Seek professional advice. An adoption counselor will be able to help you prepare your children for the upcoming adoption as well. There are also valuable resources online that can provide you with advice, including Adoption Attorney, Megan Cohen's "Talking to Your Kids About the Baby that was Put Up for Adoption."
Yes, adoption does not have to be a tricky subject to broach. By following your heart and some sage advice you can share your adoption experience with your nearest and dearest.
What advice can you offer someone in either of these situations?