Ask AF: Explaining to a Child That His Sibling Will Be Adopted By Another Family

An expectant mother who's making an open adoption plan wonders how to explain to her child that his baby sibling will be adopted by another family. A birth mother offers advice.

Q: We have been matched with an expectant mother who is already raising a six-year-old and knows she cannot parent another child. She seems extremely worried about telling her son that his new baby sibling will be adopted by another family. How could she explain this to him? Also, we are planning on an open adoption; how can we help the siblings feel connected despite living apart?

A: My advice to the expectant mother would be to start by remembering how smart our children are! They are so open and resilient to the things around them. As adults, we tend to complicate things, am I right?! The earlier we start to talk to our children, adopted and biological, the more “normal” this all becomes. Be open and honest in the most age appropriate manner, and then allow for an emotional reaction. Stand with your son as he processes his new reality. It is never easy to share things about ourselves that make us look “less than perfect” in the eyes of our children, but they can take it! Be prepared for questions, be open to them and honest in your answers, and then keep that line of communication open. The questions will change naturally as the children age and understand more.

To the prospective adoptive parents: The fact that you are worried along with the expectant mother says a lot about your commitment to open adoption and your willingness to “love her well.” As for what you’ll say to the six-year-old, you may want to start with something simple: We are family. And then expand on that as the children get older. Use technology to keep the siblings connected. Make sure visits with your child’s birth family include the biological sibling, and allow them “private time together” to play and interact.

Bottom line for all—be open and honest and include each other. You are, after all, family! It really can be that simple. Wishing you the best of luck!

—ASHLEY MITCHELL,
owner of Lifetime Healing, set out to seek increased care, understanding, and resources for birth mothers. For almost a decade, Ashley has been one of the most consistent and sought after birth mother voices in the nation. Well known for her vulnerability and transparency in adoption, her story has touched the hearts of countless members of the adoption community. Learn more at lifetimehealingadoption.com and bigtoughgirl.com.
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