How to Tell Your Children You’re Adopting

A soon-to-be mom can’t hide her secret from the world for very long. Her belly starts to swell, making it difficult for passersby to ignore the tiny kicks of a new baby. Adoptive parents can hide their expectancy for a much longer period of time. However, they will eventually need to share with their friends and family members that a new child is on the way. If the couple already has children, they might want to sit down and have this conversation rather early in the process.

Are you at a loss for words when it comes to telling your children that you’re adopting another child? Whether the new addition to the family is baby, a toddler, or an older child, you will need to have a very firm and realistic conversation with your kids about what adoption is and what it means. This is an important discussion that sets the stage for future talks about the makeup of your family unit.

Prepare early for sharing the good news with your children. You can follow a few of these simple tips to keep your conversation on topic and running smoothly.

Talk to your adoption agency about the process.

One of the best things you can do before telling your child about an adoption is to talk to your agency about the process. They can give you a better idea of what the timeline might look like before your new child comes home. At first glance, this could seem like arbitrary information, but it can help you decide when to tell your children.

Younger kids have a much shorter attention span and are less eager to wait for long adoptions. It might be better to wait until you are further in the process to share the news with your toddlers or elementary-aged kids. On the other hand, older children have the capacity to understand waiting. A child in middle school or high school can handle waiting a year or longer for their new sibling to officially come home. Consider what your child can handle at their current stage of development before settling on the perfect time to tell them.

Start the conversation slowly.

You may want to give your child an opportunity to warm up to the idea of adoption. Borrow some children’s storybooks about adoption from the local library. Watch movies where adoption is the central theme. You can use these as starting points for conversations about adoption and what it means to a child. All you want to do at this time is set the stage for telling them more later on. Mention in passing that it might be nice to have another brother or sister at the dinner table. If you can find natural ways to work adoption into your conversations, go for it!

Plan your conversation in advance.

When you are ready to tell your children, it’s important to come into the conversation prepared. Let them know that you have something very important to tell them. Explain what adoption is if you haven’t already done so, and tell them about their new brother or sister. Many parents don’t have the details about their new child, so you can just let them know that there will be a new baby sometime in the future. Older children can be walked through the process of adoption and what it will look like for the entire family.

Make sure that you give kids plenty of time to process their feelings and ask questions. This conversation could be very short or very long, depending on how inquisitive your children are.

Don’t let your child have a choice.

Most parents envision their children being on board with an adoption from the very first moment. They might be crushed to realize that their kids don’t feel quite the same way at first. This shouldn’t weaken your resolve to pursue an adoption though. At the end of the day, the decision to adopt does not belong to your child. Parents should really refrain from asking children if they want a new sibling or whether they would prefer a brother or a sister. You need to establish gently but firmly that the choice to bring in a new child is up to the parents only.

Remember that your child may have some concerns or big feelings about having a new sibling. This is completely normal, especially if they haven’t had much experience with adoption before. Be patient and refrain from taking any of their comments or behaviors personally. It is relatively common to see children act out when they hear a new child is coming to join the family. You can help to reduce this turbulent period of time by having open conversations about your child’s fears. Reassure them that they will always be loved and that the adoption will make everyone a permanent family member.

Once they know, include them in the process.

The children in your home may want to be very involved in the adoption process. Parents can allow them to come along for important things like fingerprinting, meeting the social worker, or dropping off paperwork to your adoption agency. Allow them to help you paint the new room or assemble a crib. Take them with you to run errands for clothing, formula, and other items that you need once you know that the child will be arriving soon. Your children will feel more useful throughout the process and are subconsciously connecting with their new sibling already.

Sharing the news of your adoption can be an exciting thing, but it is even more special when sharing it with your children. Telling them in a way they can understand is tricky, so you need to consider what your children truly need. Prepare yourself for all of the possible directions that your conversation could go in advance. Encourage them to ask questions and dive deeper into the conversation. After all, you want everyone to be a part of such a beautiful process.

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