Telling a child about the sibling you gave up for adoption

Dr. Laura,

Good morning, I'm reaching out hoping that there may be some small space in Dr. Laura's schedule for some guidance. In 1993 I surrendered my newborn daughter to adoption. I'm looking for guidance on how to approach this with my 3 year old. 

My son is very sensitive to the emotions of people around him, at a remarkable level according to his Montessori teachers. There is an increasing rate of activities in his preschool classroom and Camp Fire club relating to identifying family members. In 2011 I reached out to my daughter and she said she did not want contact with me. She was just 18 and I recognize that she's still growing and changing and that decision may change. I also believe that the sooner I talk about this with my son, the less likely he is to have a large negative emotional reaction either of his own or as a reflection of close family and friends cluing in to some imagined scandal. 

I had imagined this coming closer to 5 years old, but I think it would still register as a trauma at that age, because it will be a bigger surprise. I'd appreciate any advice you could offer. As with all stories, there's a lot more to it, but this is the basic outline. 

Thank you for all your parenting resources! They are so helpful.
Susan 

Susan, 

I'm not an expert in adoption. But I agree with you that it's better to have this be something you talk about all along, rather than something you spring on a child at some point. The only problem is that your son is only three, and may worry that you will give him away. If it were my child, I would make him a storybook. 

Something along the lines of: "Once upon a time, there was a girl named Susan....She lived in X place and had a good life in some ways but in some ways her life was hard (give age-appropriate examples)...When her baby girl was born, Susan did not feel ready to be a mommy. She found a family that wanted a child, and they adopted the baby. Susan was very sad and missed her baby, but she knew that the little girl was growing up with a family that loved her and could take care of her. She hoped that some day when she was ready to be a mother and raise a child, she would have a baby who she could raise. Together they would have a forever family....Finally, life was very different....Susan had a job, house, partner (be specific) and Susan felt ready to be a mother. She knew that if she had a baby now, she could give her baby a wonderful life and love her child forever and ever. Finally, the good news came. Susan was going to have a baby! The baby was a boy, and his name would be X....When X was born, Susan held him and said "I am your mother forever and ever and I will always be here for you. We are a forever family." Start reading the book now, and answer any questions he raises about the little girl. "She has new parents...She is grown up now...If she wants to meet us, she will reach out....Maybe some day we will get to meet her." 

warmly,  
Dr. Laura

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