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Preparing Older Siblings for Adoption

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Preparing adopted 6-year-old for younger adopted child

Sept 2004

We are soon going to embark upon the journey to adopt a second child. We adopted our first at birth (and our first is 6 now). I am looking for advice to help prepare our child for what is ahead. The path to adoption is oftentimes rocky, and we want to make sure that our daughter is prepared for both being an older sibling, and for the process that it entails to adopt another child. I would appreciate the usual advice on preparing a child to be an older sibling, but also specifically on how to prepare your child for the adoption end of things. Our daughter has always known she is adopted, if that makes any difference. If you adopted a second time, what was your approach? Thanks! finally ready for #2


Congratulations on your decision to adopt! We adopted our son in 2000 and our daughter in 2003. We too were concerned about how to prepare our oldest for his new sibling, but found that much of how we talked about the baby was determined by our son's ability to process the information. And we found that the second adoption enhanced our older child's understanding of his own adoption.

Because it was open, our son met our daughter's birthmother and understood that she was going to ''hatch'' a baby. (We'll deal with the biology issues later). We explained that we were going to help her hatch the baby and take care of the baby and that the baby would come and stay with us for a while. We didn't use the words brother or sister, we didn't say that she would be a part of our family. We also didn't have any parties and held off on gifts until the adoption went through. We concentrated on the fact that we were helping the birthmother and that the baby was our special guest.

Once we were in the clear with the adoption, we asked if he would like to have the baby become his sister. When we went to court for the adoption hearings the judge pronounced us a family and our son had a sister. It was really important to us that our son *not* think of the baby as a sibling in case the birthmom were to change her mind. We wanted to be able to say, ''Yes, we love the baby, and we've enjoyed having her stay with us. But remember, we were only helping out (birthmother). Now that she is ready to take care of the baby, we are going to take her back so they can be a family.'' The key is to make sure he knows he is a part of your family and that bond can never be broken.

Now - all of that said - on the way to So Cal for the birth, our son piped up from the back seat of the car and said, ''Hey, I think I see my new baby sister on that bus over there!'' Out of the mouths of babes!

Good luck. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat about this wonderful and challenging time. Carolyn


While I don't have much in the way of concrete advice for you in preparing your child for a new sibling, I want to briefly share a recent reflection I've had on my own adoption experiences. I hope that it will give you some food for thought as you proceed with your second.

I'm adopted, as are my siblings. My sister is ten years younger than I, and I have vivid memories of the excitement of her adoption. I imagine that it was much the same as a kid expecting a biological sibling. But the one thing that I've recently realized is how, when speaking about my sister, I've always said, ''when WE adopted my sister''. I love the way that implies a family decision and effort! And I do often think of her as joint ownership!

I have a biological child and a younger adopted child. Just the other day I heard my eldest telling his brother, ''you're the little brother because WE adopted you from Guatemala''. I was just amazed that he used those same words, and so pleased that he felt a part of the process and a sense of ownership.

All the best to you!! Christine


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