Adopting a child after having your own children can bring with it a whole range of various concerns, in particular, how the adoption will affect your birth children.
Parents have different journeys before arriving at adoption. Some have faced years of infertility before choosing to adopt, while others already have their own children before adopting. Still, others try to get pregnant but couldn’t and adopted a child – then suddenly conceive a healthy baby. Whatever the case may be, it is up to the parents to consider the unique issues that may result from combining kids by birth and adoption. As with every family, even conventional ones, raising children who get along can be quite a challenge, but a harmonious and happy sibling relationship is not impossible – even for blended families.
In order for your birth and adopted children to thrive, and for them to have a healthy sibling relationship, you need to prepare in advance. Change is difficult on everyone, especially children. However, parents can make sure that the process is a positive one for both their biological and adopted kids.
Prepare your biological child for the arrival of a new brother or sister.
When it comes to adoption, it is best to have ample time to prepare your biological children as opposed to just popping the surprise on them all of a sudden. You can do this by talking to your child about wanting to grow your family and explaining how adoption works in an age-appropriate manner. There are books about adoption that you and your child can read together to help him understand it.
Include your existing child in the process.
This doesn’t mean that you should seek your child’s opinion on the matter, such as asking your child if he wants a sibling, as this would seem like you are handing the power to make such an enormous decision over to your child. What you can do is involve your child in the preparations, such as bringing him along for a family meeting with a social worker, and allowing your child to ask any questions he has. Once an arrival date for your adopted child seems likely, you can ask for your child’s help with decorating the new baby or child’s room or picking out toys for his new sibling.
Reassure your child to ease any fears.
Watch out for signs that your son is battling anxiety or fear. He may start exhibiting these fears through disruptive behavior, or questions such as “Who will take care of me when you can’t do it anymore?” or comments like “I think you and Daddy will like/love my new brother/sister more than you love me.” These are clear indicators that your child has developed fears related to adoption. He or she might fear being placed for adoption if you or your spouse becomes ill, or when hard times hit your family. Explain to your child that parents make an adoption plan for their kid and that it is not a careless, random choice on their part to do so. Reaffirm your child’s place in your family by telling her that while you are getting a new child and he is getting a new sibling, it doesn’t mean that your love for him will diminish. Make it clear to your child that you will spend one-on-one time with him, then make sure you follow through on it after the adoption takes place. Reassure your child that no one is taking his or her place, but that having a sibling means he or she will have another person to love and be loved by. If he is afraid that his new brother or sister can get taken away again, you can ease his mind by telling him that because you adopted the child, that child becomes a part of your family forever.
Welcome any questions your biological child has about adoption and his new brother or sister.
Your child will naturally be curious about adoption. In the beginning, he may have misconceptions about it, and this will be a good opportunity for you to correct them. He might be curious about how his new brother or sister came to be available for adoption, or why his or her birth parents decided not to raise him or her. How much information you choose to share with your child, and how you do so, depends on his age and ability to comprehend the information. Most experts recommend not giving children any private information that you want to be kept within the family so that they wouldn’t have to feel that they should keep secrets. Answering any questions your child might have is also the perfect opportunity to model how you want your children to answer questions asked by people outside of the family. Make it a point to use positive adoption language when answering your child’s questions so that he will pick up on these too.
Explain any changes that are likely to take place once the new child arrives.
While you may see yourself as being supermom (or superdad), there is just no getting around the fact that life will change when your new child arrives – and that big change will be felt by everyone in your family, including your biological child. It is best if your existing child gets a heads up prior to the arrival of the new baby or child so that he will know what to expect. Explain to your child that he might get less of your attention than he is used to, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t love him anymore. Let him know that because of his new sibling’s circumstances, he or she will need extra help getting used to his or her new family and home. Make sure your child understands that he can ask for more attention and time if he feels that he needs it. Together with your child, try to come up with ways that you can maintain your closeness throughout the transition. Again, make sure that you still get to spend one-on-one time with your birth child after the adoption takes place so that he doesn’t feel left out.
Look for and maintain a support group that understands your situation.
Your family will benefit from connecting with other similar blended families and having a support group that understands what you are going through because they have similar experiences. The North American Council on Adoptable Children or NACAC maintains a database of adoption-related parent support groups. Similarly, you can use the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s National Foster Care and Adoption Directory to search for parent groups in your locality. These communities provide a safe place for adopted families to honestly express their feelings, receive supportive views, as well as learn new parenting strategies from more experienced adoptive parents.
If you feel that any difficulties or challenges you are experiencing as an adoptive family is out of the ordinary, you may benefit from professional help. Your adoption agency can refer you to a therapist or counselor who will meet with your family to try and determine how best to help you.