There are lots of reasons you may choose to grow your family via adoption after giving birth. No matter your reasons, if you have a toddler in your family and plan to bring home an adopted newborn baby, chances are you need to figure out both how to explain adoption and your family’s choices to your little one.
Explaining Adoption to Your Toddler
Before you share the news of the forthcoming adopted baby, start the process of explaining the concept of adoption to your toddler:1
- Introduce the concept of adoption with age-appropriate aids like books and movies.
- Highlight the importance of building a family with love as the connective bond rather than “blood.”
- Ask your toddler what they think about the concept and process of adoption—well before sharing that your family will be adding an adopted baby to the household.
- Validate any feelings your toddler may have throughout the adoption process.
The adoption process can take a long time; explaining the process to your toddler as it moves along can be a helpful way not only to prepare them for their forthcoming adopted sibling but help them feel like an important, included part of the process and member of the family.
Preparing Your Toddler for their Adopted Newborn Sibling
Preparing your toddler to meet their adopted newborn sibling is quite similar to the way parents can prep a toddler to meet a newborn sibling of biological relation. After introducing and discussing the concept of adoption, proceed with preparing your toddler and the household for the forthcoming baby as you did when you prepared for your biological child:2
- Emphasize the importance of love and belonging. Just as when you emphasized love is what creates a family, continue to remind your little one that everyone needs to feel loved and as though they belong. Highlight this by making sure your toddler feels loved and included too!
- Learn, teach, and use the correct terms related to adoption. Words mean things. Using the correct terms for things is critical when speaking with toddlers, up to and including when talking about adoption. For example, never say the adopted baby was “given up”—they were “placed.”
- Share what you know about the baby’s birth family. Your toddler is likely to have a lot of questions about who brought the new baby into the world—answer as many as you reasonably can.
- Enlist your toddler to help prepare your home. Your toddler will feel more connected to the adopted baby if they help prepare the nursery, ensure the house is babyproofed, and select items for their forthcoming sibling.
Remember: Toddlers trust their parents and family members. They’re also perceptive. If the family speaks about adoption and blended families in positive, open-minded ways, your toddler is likely to follow suit.3