Family matters: Telling about birth siblings


Geoff Ayi-Bonte
Focus on Adoption magazine

A few months ago, we told our 6-year-old son that he has two older birth siblings who live with his birthmom. He doesn’t want to see photos of his siblings, or talk about it. How can we help?

At this age, kids are just beginning to understand the idea of adoption and where babies come from. They are also beginning to visualize their birth families, crave more details, and ask more concrete questions. Sometimes, we hold on to details we don’t think our kids are ready for. When critical information is omitted, it can feel like a betrayal to the child.

Young kids imagine their birth family stories within the context of the information they are given; for instance, "Your birthmom wasn’t able to take care of a child." In your son’s case, he now discovers that his birthmom was able to take care of his siblings. This new information has completely changed the context in which he understood his adoption, probably confused him, and caused him to wonder, "Why did she keep my brother and sister but not me?" His emotions are likely quite mixed, and he will not have the words to tell you what he is feeling. Remember, that behaviour is the language of kids—your son may do some acting out as he works his mind around the new story. In time, he will be ready to see the photos of his siblings and talk about how he feels. You may need to occasionally, and gently, broach the subject and give him the message that it’s okay to talk about it when he is ready.

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