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Your Adopted Child and Their Birth Siblings

healthy communication in open adoptionAdoption conversations with children can be difficult, and perhaps never more so when there are multiple children involved. If your adopted child has a birth sibling being parented by one or both birth parents, it may be tempting to hide that information from them. You may feel as though you are shielding them from heartache, but as with all adoption conversations, the most important rule is that honesty is always the best policy. 

Be Honest, Early and Always

Some parents tell themselves that they will just wait until their child is a bit older to explain that they have birth siblings, or to explain that the child they know through their open adoption is their brother or sister. The problem with that is that there is no magic age at which this information becomes easier to convey. Additionally, hiding this information from your child may lead them to believe that there is something wrong with their sibling relationship, or that it is something to be ashamed of. 

Age-Appropriate Language

An important part of being honest with your child about their birth siblings is ensuring that the language you use is age appropriate. For younger children, this may be as simple as telling them that their sibling needs to live with a different family, but that they will always be siblings. 

Your child may have questions about why their birthmother placed them for adoption, but not their sibling. Again, age-appropriate honesty is key. You can simply tell them that when they were born, their birth parents couldn’t give them everything they wanted to, because they were at a different point in their life than when their sibling was born. 

Be Prepared for Emotions

While it is important to be honest with your child, you must also be prepared for the potential of some emotional fallout. It may not happen immediately, but once your child has time to process the new information, they may experience a wide range of emotions, from sadness to anger. It may be tempting to try to ‘logic’ them out of those emotions, but it is important to ensure they know their emotions are valid. 

You can of course explain to your child that the decision their birth parent made was a difficult one, but that adults have to make hard decisions sometimes. You can also explain that their sibling had no part in the choice, though you should still be prepared for some potential conflicts to arise between them. 

Siblings No Matter What

Whenever you talk about your child’s birth sibling, whether it is the initial conversation or follow-up questions, be sure that you tell your child that no matter what, their sibling will always be their brother or sister, even if they do not live with the same parents. This can give your child a sense of solidarity and belonging, and help to set the stage for a great sibling relationship through the communication you have set up in your open adoption.