When we adopted for the second time, we carefully worked through the best way to introduce the concept that a new baby would be arriving. Luckily, our eldest already had the foundations of what this meant. They knew the word adoption, and in an age appropriate way, understood what it meant. Although I hadn’t put pen to paper and written The Family Fairies, I had all the ideas whizzing around in my head. We happily used these to help explain the stages we’d go through.
It was actually really natural for us to talk about adopting again. Without sounding flippant, the fact we were “doing it again”, was pretty much received with great excitement. In fact, very few questions were asked. Especially around the “why” or “how”. But adoption can be a tricky subject to get your head around. It is confusing for little ones. So, imagine if you throw into the mix that a new brother or sister will be joining a family – but they won’t be growing in mummy’s tummy as they had. This needs careful consideration on how to introduce.
I’m always touched when I read that people who’ve had a birth child, have made the decision to grow their family though adoption. As an author, I count myself lucky that I can use the power of storytelling to help children understand families come together in different ways. That families have different make ups. That they are all special. This family set up of both birth and adopted children is one of these.
If you’ve read my other blog posts, you’ll know I’ve found great support on social media, in particular, on my Rosemary Lucas Storytime Instagram account. I’m grateful to have connected with other adoptive parents and prospective adopters. I am learning loads from them. I hope they are learning from me too.
I recently spotted a fantastic post by someone I follow. It really caught my eye and I was blown away at the considerable thought this person had put in to helping her birth daughter understand that a new member of the family would soon be joining them -through adoption.
I’d like to introduce you to Molly from mollymamaadopt. I am so grateful that she is happy to share her story and the fantastic resource she has put together. I know it will support others. Here is how she came up with the idea…
“Hi everyone! My name is Molly and I’m a UK birth mum to a very sassy but sweet three-year-old daughter. My husband and I had always contemplated the idea of adoption. After much consideration we were certain our decision not to have another pregnancy was the right one for us. We attended our first adoption information evening and I was blown away. We knew immediately that this was the right path for us to take. After our pre-registration interview with our agency, excitement really started to grow. My husband was just as excited as me. I knew we’d support each other – together – every step of the way.
One of the biggest questions we had for our agency was how they were going to involve our birth daughter in the adoption process. How they would support her to be aware of what was happening. How they could help with the transition to the idea of an adoptive sibling. Our agency did not let us down and our social worker has been incredible. They’ve involved her throughout the process using creative play sessions and preparing a large part of our PAR (prospective adopter’s report) around how to support and raise her alongside an adoptive child.
We were signposted to quite a few books. Some were a fantastic start to introducing her to adoption in general. Our lovely friends researched too. They got us hooked on the CBeebies show “Hey Duggee”, which introduces the idea of adoption by included an elephant character who is mummy to a crocodile. We also used the Nutmeg range of books, as well as some others which we borrowed through Adoption UK’s lending library. However, I really struggled to find something specifically for birth children that focused on welcoming an adoptive sibling. I knew this was what my daughter really needed.
We started conversations with her about adoption, but it was hard for her to apply it to herself, or our family. I started hunting for resources I could use and was stunned at the lack of things specifically for birth children. Even our agency had limited resources because they had never been provided with anything. I knew my daughter needed something creative and ‘hands-on’. This is how she loves to learn. She really engages with interactive information at nursery and at home, so I knew she’d benefit most from an activity book.
After two weeks of searching with no luck, I gave up and put my graphic design skills to the test (which conveniently I am trained in!). I sat down and mapped out the process. Included what our family would go through, from meeting our social worker right up to bringing our second child home. I then designed the workbook including activities such as colouring, counting, thinking of ideas, doodling, joining the dots, filling in missing letters. I asked the amazing Instagram community for their experiences of birth children welcoming adoptive siblings. For any barriers their birth children experienced. I got feedback like – ‘not knowing about tummy mummy’ or ‘not understanding foster carers’ and even ‘being impatient waiting to be matched’. These are all things I’ve ensured I incorporated.
Before I knew it, I had 28 pages of activities for my daughter! I found a local printer to print it for me. I’ll never forget picking it up from their shop and being stuck there for twenty minutes answering questions they had about adoption. They were fascinated – they loved it and wanted to know more, which was brilliant!
My daughter has responded to the workbook amazingly. She comes home from nursery and runs to grab it and do more pages. She shows her friends and our family her work with such pride. It’s also successfully been used in her sessions with our social worker. We often find her telling her friends’ parents about foster carers or explaining ‘tummy mummy’ to her grandparents. I just sit there with tears in my eyes beaming with pride.
I didn’t expect the workbook to go down so well. Our social worker even asked if the agency could use it, so I’ve created various templates for them. I’ve had so many lovely comments from people who have seen it. We plan to take it to panel to show them how much she has learnt and how it has allowed her to be fully involved. I can’t wait for them to see it!
Most of all, it will be an amazing memoir for us to keep and to show our children when they are older. Hopefully it will show our second child how loved they were by us all, even before we knew they existed…and especially by their big sister.”
I’m sure you’ll agree this is one of the very best examples of involving children through birth in the adoption process. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share it. I hope those of you out there in this position, find it useful. I have to say, that it’s not just useful for this scenario. I’d love to of had something like this when we adopted our second child. Adapted to your own situation, I think it would have been so beneficial. I even think if you are adopting for the first time it could be used to help young family members, like cousins, to interactively understand how adoption works and how it differs to when you have a birth child.
So, embrace these lovely ideas. Adapt them to your own circumstances. Support your children. Engage them. And above anything else, prepare your little ones for the very very important job of becoming a big sister or brother.
You can find mollymamaadopt on Instagram. At the time of this post, they were still working though adoption preparation training and hoping to get an approval panel date soon. Follow her account and join them on their special journey as they grow from three to four.