Placing a child for adoption can be one of the most difficult decisions of a woman’s life. It is also important to recognize how challenging it may be for a birth mother to talk with her other, children that she is parenting, after placing a child for adoption.
Often times a mother’s natural reaction is to do her best to shield her children from any pain or discomfort. Many birth mothers may not feel ready to have those difficult conversations with her other children about a sibling that she placed for adoption. However, while one may think she is protecting her child, not being honest can sometimes create distance between her and her child and ultimately lead to a mistrusting relationship.
There are important factors to consider when thinking about talking to a child about their sibling being placed for adoption:
- Positive Adoption Language– children are like sponges, and it is really important that parents are very conscious of their word choice when talking either around children or to children about their sibling being placed for adoption.
|Common Phrases||Positive Adoption Language|
|“I gave up your brother or sister”||“I made a positive plan for your brother or sister”|
|“this other baby”||“brother or sister”|
|“they aren’t his or her real parents”||“they are his or her adoptive parents”|
|“I am his or her real parent”||“I am his or her biological parent”|
|“you have a sibling out there in the world”||“you have a sibling who is being loved on by amazing parents that I chose for him or her, just like I love on you”|
- Age Appropriateness– It is important to recognize that age/personality of a child plays a huge factor in when/how you discuss an adoption plan to a sibling. A parent must recognize how much a child can comprehend, as well as their emotional stability.
- Open/Honest Communication– creating a safe space to be open and honest with your children is really important. A child should feel comfortable to be able to come to a parent to discuss/ask questions about a sibling that was placed for adoption.
- Free Expression: A child should feel comfortable to express their emotions, good or bad, about a sibling being placed for adoption. Often times birthparents forget that their other children have to go on their own journey of grief/loss and it is important to allow a sibling to do that at his or her own pace. This is a poem a birth mother wrote about her young son’s emotions surrounding the placement of his younger sister:
- Reassurance: It is really important that a birth parent continues to reassure their children that they are loved and safe. In explaining how and why a sibling was placed for adoption, a child should be reminded that they are not going to be placed elsewhere.
- Sibling Connection: Part of open adoption is allowing birth family to connect with an adoptee, which includes siblings. Allowing a birth parents’ other children to partake in the open relationship (visits/pictures/letters) is really valuable to all the children involved. A child placed for adoption should still be given the ability to bond and connect to siblings that his or her birth parent is parenting.
A birth parent’s fear of what emotions might re-surface, can get in the way of her other children’s processing of everything. Children are really resilient, and we have to keep that in mind when preparing to talk with a child about a sibling adoption plan. Your social worker will be able to help guide you as your children begin to process the experience.
Reading can be a valuable tool in talking with a child about their sibling being placed for adoption.
Helpful Children’s Books for birth parents to read to children they are parenting: