Ask AF: Building a Relationship With Birth Siblings

When is the best time to start a relationship with birth siblings?

Q: Our 11-year-old daughter is the only child in our family, but her birth father has two children that he’s raising. She’s communicated with him via the letters and pictures that we exchange, but we haven’t told her about his kids. Should we tell her about her siblings now? Should we encourage the kids to write to or e-mail each other? Or should any sort of a reunion wait until she’s 18?


A: I recommend that parents be involved in the decision to open adoptions before their child turns 18. Ideally, an open adoption should feel somewhat like an extended family.

Of course, not all adoptions should (or could) be open. I am in no way recommending that. Each family must decide what feels right for them.

But because you have kept alive the connection with this birth parent, my advice for you and your husband would be to meet with him in person. Find out who he is and what he believes, and then take time to decide whether you think a relationship with birth siblings is right for your child.

Make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations and the language to be used in talking about adoption. If, instead, the children were to start emailing each other with no prior connection and no common understanding between the parents, it might be less than helpful.

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