Ask AF: Our Only Child Is Asking for a Sibling

An adoptive parent wonders how to respond to an only child who keeps asking for a sibling. Real parents share their advice and stories.

Q: We adopted our daughter, who is now three, at birth. Recently she has been telling us that she wants a baby brother. Although my husband and I had originally wanted more than one child, we cannot afford to adopt again. Plus, we are content with our little family and are enjoying being able to put all of our focus on our daughter. At the same time, I worry that we’re depriving our daughter of a sibling. What should we do?

Members of adoptivefamiliescircle.com respond:

“My three-year-old son brings it up frequently. While I feel guilty that he is an only child, we know that adopting again would be a strain that would impact the family negatively. If that is the case with you, keep your child busy with other kids, daycare, family, and so on. I think it's normal for all only children to go through this, but it's harder on some of us adoptive parents because we already worry so much about our kids and how they will deal with the 'tough stuff' in their lives due to adoption."

“My daughter begged for a little sister for months, starting around age six, then suddenly decided she would rather have a dog. Now she’s been begging for a dog for the past year. Her cousin has three younger siblings and desperately wishes she could be an only child. Kids go through phases and don’t really know what they want, especially when they are that young. A three-year-old is too little to understand that getting a sibling means less attention for her, fewer family vacations, someone who pesters and teases, someone who makes messes in your room and gets into all your stuff. My daughter will (hopefully) be getting a sister soon (we are waiting for a match). She is not getting a dog. When I made the decision to adopt again, I considered my daughter's well-being (I think it’s important for her to have a sibling), but I also thought quite a lot about what I wanted for myself. In the end it was my decision to make in our family’s best interest."

"If finances are the only thing holding you back from adopting again, and you really want to be a parent to a second child, consider adopting from foster care. It's free."

"I keep thinking that I don’t want my daughter to deal with her parents' health problems alone when she's older, and I don’t want her to lack thoughtfulness…. I just read this Adoptive Families article, 'Your One and Only,' and it was helpful to know that so many others have the same exact thoughts (and that some things are myths)."

"As so many others have said, children often say they want a sibling for many reasons—in my opinion, mostly because they are thinking of a playmate and not a baby or someone who takes up a parent’s time and energy, or with whom they have to negotiate. This happens in all families, biological, blended, or adoptive. But I would caution you, especially if you are not really on board with wanting another child, to not adopt in order to respond to a small child."

"There is much research to show that only children do better than most of us who have siblings, so relax. Telling a child, 'We don’t have the money' could give them the idea that they were 'purchased,' so I would leave money out of it. It also wouldn't mean much to a child at this age to say that you are 'older.' To a three-year-old, you are a 'big person,' whether you are 30 or 80. So, instead of feeling that you have to share your reasoning with a child, just understand that parents make the decisions about having children. You can agree, 'Yes, it would be nice if you had a brother or sister, but it doesn’t seem like that will happen,' then move on."

"I have both biological and adopted children. All of them have asked for a baby brother or sister at some point, usually when a friend at school has a new baby at home. This is absolutely nothing to be concerned about. The number of children you have is up to you, as parents. Next time she says ‘I want a baby brother,' I would acknowledge the request: 'You do, huh?' and then redirect or move on: 'Let’s go draw a picture of our family!' or 'Let’s go outside and play. After a few months of asking for a baby sister, my seven-year-old is over that and now asking for a cell phone—which he will also have to live without. LOL."

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