Explaining adoption to birth children

Today’s post comes from our very own Vicki (who also writes at The Boy’s Behaviour), who needs some help with a – perhaps – unusual situation…

As some of you might already know I have an adoptive son – Mini who is 6 (nearly 7) and a birth daughter Dollop who is 3 and a half. Dollop came along unexpectedly after Mini had been here for 2.5 years or so. IMG_20131006_221338

At nursery Dollop is starting to do some work on families and babies, and she’s had to take in a photo. That’s all fine and seems fairly straightforward…she knows she grew in my tummy, and how she entered the world (to an age appropriate level). She also knows that Mini didn’t grow in my tummy, but someone else’s. She’s fine with that, it’s all she’s ever known and to her it’s normal that siblings grow in different places.

But, do we need to think about explaining the differences between her and her brother?

Does she need to have a deeper understanding? Should we wait until she asks questions, but then, is she likely to question it all…to her it’s normal. When do you explain adoption to a child who is not adopted, but is living with adoption and trauma everyday?

I appreciate this may not be a common question…we’re in that position that so many people have supposedly heard of (pregnancy after adopting, despite diagnosed infertility), yet I only know of a couple of others it’s happened to. But I’d appreciate your thoughts.

3 thoughts on “Explaining adoption to birth children

  1. Helen

    We have 4 birth children who are older, and now we’re on the route to adoption. Our children are a mixture of full blood siblings, half siblings and step siblings, but the common thread is that they are brothers and sisters (in whatever form), they love each other and we are a family. The youngest is fully aware that there are differences, but as far as he is concerned, it’s just how it is. It may be a little confusing for a small brain, but it’s (in my opinion anyway) just not a big deal. Tell the truth, for sure, but let time and loves show that family is all that matters. I truly hope we can behave the same way (apart from the obvious differences) with our adoptive children when the time comes.

  2. Joanna Murray

    I’m not sure she needs a deeper understanding, especially at her age and stage. If it’s open that her brother was adopted and she has an understanding of what that means rather than the reasons why, I think she has what she needs. In the future, if she asks questions it may be a better time to discuss further.
    I am not in your situation, we have an adopted daughter and she has an older step-sister. The elder girl asked lots of questions before and a couple of questions as they arise since and we simply answer them. Our adopted daughter is still celebrating living with her ‘new’ family (over a year on it still excites her) but does not yet know why. She says that she needed a mummy and daddy. She actually isn’t interested in why. In the meantime, she has asked why for other family makeups and why about some of the adoption stories we have, and why about the characters in the Annie and Oliver musical films and so we talk about those. She knows the dog up the road had owners who couldn’t look after it so someone else ‘adopted’ it. But, as yet, what they all have in common with her is that they were adopted, not what happened before. Perhaps we’ll wait until she asks, perhaps we’ll drop things in when watching films, reading stories, thinking about other people, or talking about her birth family. But I think she will be the lead on it and if she looks forward, so will we.

  3. Laura

    My advice is not from direct experience, but to me it feels like what you’re doing is about right. She knows Mini is adopted, and they were born to different people but that he is her family and always will be. It might be a bit tricky to tackle any deeper meaning before she asks you outright, might it rock her sense of security too? It may be hard to hear that children sometimes get separated from their birth families, and also that parents are capable of hurting their children.
    With all these things I think that your Mummy instincts will serve you well, you know what level of information she can handle and how to pitch it.
    Maybe these sessions at nursery will prompt her to ask more – that will be the golden opportunity to have a good talk.
    Good luck with it x


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