Adopting a child is a life-changing decision, especially if you already have an older child in your family. In this case it becomes very important for you as a parent to prepare your older child about many aspects – not just about the arrival of the sibling but also about the adoption as a way to build a family. We are going to talk about these aspects in this article.
Talking about Adoption to your Older Child
1. Talking about the arrival of a baby/new member into the family
Once you have finalized your decision to adopt and have registered for adoption, it becomes important to start talking about the arrival of a child into your family. This needs to done in a gradual manner. Your child may initially show resistance towards the idea but don’t let it discourage you. Continue to talk to your child about how he/ she is going to be the elder brother/ sister to the little sibling who is going to come home and how he/ she as an older sibling is going to help you in choosing clothes, toys, etc for the baby, talking care of the child, etc. This gives the older child a sense of importance, and she is more likely to accept the new sibling, minimizing the degree of sibling rivalry.
2. Talking about adoption as a concept
While one is talking to the older child from the perspective of preparing him/ her for the arrival of a sibling, it is important to start talking to him/ her about what is adoption. This is important because the child is going to witness the younger sibling coming home from “somewhere else” and not Mummy’s tummy.
Explaining adoption to a child is not as complicated as it may appear. We have stories like Krishna’s birth story which talks about baby Krishna’s transition from the birth family into the adoptive home. There are other examples of adoption in our mythology like Karna born to Kunti and being raised in an adoptive home and Sita herself being found in a farm and raised by King Janaka. The story of Mowgli in the novel Jungle Book is another kind of adoption where a human baby is raised by animals.
These stories are a medium of talking to your child about adoption. You can say that your child’s sibling is also going to come home like baby Krishna. You can say that the new baby also has another tummy mummy or Devaki Amma (a better way to talk about a birth mother to the child) and you are the baby’s Yashoda Amma.
3. Helping your child understand the concept of the adoption agency as the baby’s “first home”
While you talk to the child about adoption as a concept, pay a visit to the adoption agency along with your child. This shall help in talking to your child about the fact that this is his new sibling’s first home. This helps to build a positive picture about the adoption agency in your child’s mind. Kindly do not refer to adoption agency as a hospital/ boarding home, etc.
4. Helping the child understand the fact that the adoption is permanent
It is important for a parent to convey to a child that the sibling’s home coming is a permanent situation. Although the baby may have come from the first home, no one is going to take the baby away from you and your family. This shall help keep any form of insecurity that the child may feel regarding this aspect at bay.
5. Helping the child deal with the fact that he/ she is no longer the only child in the family
Having a younger sibling in the family is a difficult time for any child irrespective of whether the child is adopted or not. Give your older child enough time and attention to help him cope with the division of the attention of his parents between him/ her and the sibling.
Also involve the child in taking care of the younger sibling like bringing you a diaper, applying baby powder to the child, choosing a dress for the baby etc. You may also request her to take care of the baby while you take a call or open the door when the door bell rings and then thank the child complimenting her on how well she did as an older sibling. This will also raise the child’s self esteem along with improving her relationship with her new sibling.
Adopting a child requires many considerations, and having an older child at home can be an extra challenge. But with good, honest communication, love and patience, your children will soon gel together and you’ll be the happiest Mommy when you see it happen!
Deepali has a BA in sociology from Pune University; Masters in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai); PG Diploma in School Psychology from Janana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology. She has the experience of working in the field of Family & Child Welfare since the last 15 yrs. She is currently a freelancer with 3 different adoption agencies. She is an adoptive parent herself.