Open Adoption Roundtable: Talking About Siblings

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. We’re up to Open Adoption Roundtable #26.

Open adoption blogger Susiebook suggested we write about how to talk about siblings in open adoption. I thought it was a great idea: a chance to share some practical information with each other from our different experiences and perspectives. It may be that birth parents are parenting older or younger siblings, or that siblings were placed in different adoptive families. What words do we use to talk about that? How do we frame it? What questions or issues have come up?

Although I’m a full 2 weeks late on this one, siblings are a topic that is close to my heart. I’ve written about them before at Adoption Blogs at least twice. I’ve mentioned them here and there.

Jack has 3 siblings now, on his birthmother’s side. Most of our friends know this, but I’m not sure if most of my family does or not. My family seems to be uncomfortable talking about S, so we don’t bring her up very often. I don’t want to have to defend or vilify her. S is a person who has made some bad choices, but at least one very good one. That’s real life.

Jack is very proud of having siblings. He often laments that his brothers and sister don’t live with us. He finally sort of asked why that is – why S parents them and we parent him. I paraphrased a comment that I got on my Open Adoption Roundtable post from October 2010:

S knew that adoption was the best choice. But it was very hard to let you go. It made her very sad. When she had Baby A and CJ, she just didn’t want to be that sad again.

He then asked why adoption was the best choice. So I told him about S’s situation, in an age-appropriate manner. That was very hard. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more questions about that in the not-too-distant future.

It always bothers me when I see adoptive parents ask, “How do I tell my child he has siblings?” I know it’s hard to talk about new siblings, but when the siblings are older… why are they not a part of the story from the beginning? I would never deny S and I’m not going to deny or obfuscate her parented children. Like I said once before, they’re not technically siblings – they are siblings.

3 thoughts on “Open Adoption Roundtable: Talking About Siblings

  1. I’m so with you on the last paragraph. It seems to me that if you don’t tell your child about his/her siblings from the beginning, you not only have to eventually tell them the facts, you also have to explain why you withheld the information in the first place.

  2. Im new to this open adoption thing but I have to admit I do feel like my adopted
    sons siblings are “technically siblings.” My husband and I have three bio children and three adopted children who share the same mom. Their mom has two older girls who they were raised around (not with). And then
    the older two adopted sons are #12 and #13 on their birth dad’s side with at least four moms involved.
    We were their foster parents for a year before adopting them and trying to navigate this whole open adoption thing. But this sibling topic is so complicated for us.

    • It can get tricky with so many siblings, and with siblings with whom you have no contact. I bet some biological siblings would feel like they’re only “technically” siblings because of age differences, distance, etc.

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