My spouse and I are thinking about adopting a child. How can we begin to prepare our other children?
Over the past five years I’ve noticed that an increasing number of couples are considering adoption. For some the adopted child will be an only child and for others they will join other children. Adoption brings with it some great blessings and some great challenges. One of the greatest challenges can be helping your other children deal with this new addition to the family. Here are some ideas that other families have found helpful.
Talk about your reasons for wanting to adopt and how you sense God has been leading you in this direction.
Make the possibility of adoption a topic of family prayer. This allows God to help prepare their hearts for this possibility.
Let them know that they might experience feelings and emotions that they’ve never thought about. For example, at some point your youngest child will realize that they are losing their place as the “baby” and that special time with mom/dad and they may become angry. Be ready to talk about the fears, hurts or frustrations that might be behind the anger.
Let each child grieve however they need to. Help each child to feel safe to voice any unpleasant feelings they may have about the baby—including anxiety and even outright anger—even before the baby arrives.
Talk about the idea that your family will be moving into a “new normal” where things will be changing in some expected and some unexpected ways. Talking ahead of time about a new normal can give you an anchor to continue talking about this along the way. Lay the groundwork for the idea that while this is exciting and a blessing that it may not be perfect and wonderful all of the time.
Talk to your children about it often enough so that they can share new thoughts and concerns as they arise but don’t dwell on it. Don't talk about the new child every day unless your child brings up the subject. They need to know that they are still important and that your whole life doesn’t revolve around this new sibling.
You can encourage the development of warm feelings for the coming sibling by having the kids buy a special toy that they give, draw a special picture to hang in the new room, etc. This will help the new child become real for your children even before they appear.
When a new child enters a home, regardless of the circumstances, that home will never be the same. The relationships will never be the same. As you allow God to help you prepare minds and hearts and as you allow normal emotions to be experienced, expressed and processed you can normalize this transition and help them see this addition to your family as a gift from God to all of you.