Bio, Adopted, and Other Siblings
In discussing siblings and differences, there are all kinds of differences:
- One child may have been born into the family and the other adopted;
- The children may be of different racial or cultural backgrounds;
- One child may be in a closed adoption and the other in an open adoption;
- There may be a lot of background information on one child and very little, or none, on the other.
Adoptive parents worry that the child who experiences himself to have
less will feel
less loved. But the major task of childhood is to acknowledge differences and to try to figure out which ones matter and in what ways.
Children focus on differences and try to determine what they mean. Is it better to be one way than another? Tall or short? Straight or curly hair? If you tease someone about something and they get really upset, you know you have hit on something the other child is ashamed of. No reaction means it doesn't matter.
You shouldn't try to be "fair" to your children by treating them all the same. Fair isn't the same as equal. Even if you could, it wouldn't be good to treat your children identically; it only reinforces their need to keep score. It communicates that identical treatment means equal amounts of love, and it encourages them to keep score. It is important to stress their uniqueness, their special skills and talents.Celebrate all kinds of "stories" and relationships.
Don't minimize the birth story, or one child's contact with her birth parents, in order to compensate for another child's perceived inequality.
It is important to encourage your children to express their feelings. You can acknowledge that sometimes things aren't fair, and when that happens it doesn't feel good.
Let's move on to the questions.Question:
My biggest concern about each of my girls has to do with half siblings who are being raised by their birth families. I have not figured out how to tell them about that.Ronny:
It is important to answer children honestly if they ask about siblings. These are other children the birth mother has. They aren't really siblings to young children.Question:
What if they never ask?Ronny:
Then by the time they are 12, tell them. You want them to know you are on their side and want them to have the information about themselves.Question:
What if they ask when they are older, and then get angry because I never told them?Ronny:
You can say they didn't ask, or tell them when you are discussing something relevant and don't wait for them to ask, whichever way would make you feel better.Question:
How do I tell them that and not make them feel like they were the unchosen ones?Ronny:
You have to tell them the truth about their lives and help them cope with their feelling. You can't protect them from feeling hurt, if they do. Adoptive parents' job is to help kids cope. It strengthens them. Protecting them from the truth only makes them feel vulnerable, like they can't handle it. But explain why the birth mother may be raising the other children and not your child.Question:
I don't know why. Really. I can speculate, but I'm not comfortable doing that (why my girls were adopted
when their half siblings were not). So that is part of my discomfort. I don't want to tell them the reason and then be totally wrong.Ronny:
But you have to speculate with your children. You can't leave them with nothing if you don't have the information. Speculation isn't lying. It's saying it might be because of this, or because of that. What does your child think the reason could be? We all speculate about why things happen. Maybe she was too young and then grew up. Maybe she was alone and then married. Maybe she was uneducated and then got educated. You have to provide some parameters for your children in terms of how to figure this out.Comment:
No, they both have OLDER sibs who are being raised by their first families.Ronny:
So when those kids were born, the birth mother felt able. Then when your child was born, she already had a child, knew what children needed, wanted more for this child, etc. People are naive with their first children and have no idea what children need.Question:
I have one bio and one adopted, and I wondered if there are any ways to make sure the adoptee
does not feel unequal, other than the obvious.Ronny:
You can't and shouldn't focus on protecting your adopted child. Tell the truth and encourage him/her to talk about how he/she feels. That is how you can help most. Don't minimize the birth story to make your adopted child feel better. Celebrate both ways of becoming a family. Remember that adoption is just DIFFERENT not better or worse.Question:
I have 3 adopted children. Right now, I am pregnant. We don't know if I will carry to term or not. My question is, how do I prepare my other 3 children that we maybe having another child? Especially with my son who has a lot of attachment issues already.Ronny:
You need to tell them, as you're well into the pregnancy, that a baby is growing inside you. They all grew inside ladies wombs. Adoption is when you go to another family after birth. That sometimes happens because the lady whose womb you grew in wasn't ready to be a mommy to any baby at that time in her life. Attachment issues have to do with his past life. yYou have room to love many children, and that will be something he will experience over time. It is common for children to feel threatened at having another sibling, but if everyone has a place and is unique in his/her own way, these issues work out in time.Question:
We have been blessed with a beautiful little boy we adopted at birth. He has an older sibling
who is now in the process of
being adopted by his biological grandfather because his bmom's parental rights
were terminated by social services. His older sibling is still in contact with their bmom and will always be, I imagine. How do I explain to my son when he's older that his bmom chose not to know him and that he may not have this opportunity?Ronny:
His bmom wasn't able to take care of any baby. His older brother had a grandfather who could take care of him, but your son didn't and you wanted ablittle boy just like him because no baby grew in your womb, etc. etc. You have to tell him his story, and then help him sort out what happened and how he feels about it. His older sib was older when the adoption plan was made. Perhaps he'd already known his grandfather. Your son didn't because he was adopted at birth.Question:
But his older sibling still has that contact with their bmom and my son possibly never will ... given the circumstances ... that's what I'm most concerned about, the older one will always know his bmom and my son will never know anything other than the little bit of info I got at the hospital. And how do I explain that she did not want to know him?Ronny:
You explain that she knew it would hurt too much to know him and then have to let him go. Birth mothers care, they just aren't always able to parent. Life isn't fair. Help him understand that his situation isn't because of him but about the adults. It doesn't make him more or less lovable. Does that make sense to you?Comment:
Yeah, it makes perfect sense ... and that's what I've always thought I'd say ... I guess I was just looking for some reassurance.Ronny:
Great, your instincts are terrific!Question:
(Submitted by someone unable to make the chat.) She has one adopted child - VERY open, and is in the process of adopting
again, but it appears that while there may be contact, there won't be the same openness - perhaps no visits at all. She wants to know how she can explain to both children.Ronny:
The 2nd child can benefit from the 1st child's open relationship with birth family to learn generally about birth parents. Not every bmom wants the same thing. Some think it will hurt too much to have openness, and people not connected to adoption warn birth and adoptive parents against openness. It doesn't make sense to them because it is 'counterintuitive' - seems like it will make things more difficult when it doesn't really.Question:
The adoptive mom is concerned that it may place too much pressure on the first child's bmom/family to interact with the 2nd child (or that they may not want to), making the 2nd child feel left out and worse.Ronny:
My experiences with that situation have been different. The bmoms have been comfortable including the other children in the family, to some extent, birth and adopted kids. The adoptive parents need to discuss this with the bmom to help her understand the situation, but the adopted child also needs to have a separate relationship with his/her bmom.