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Q: Our sonís birthfather died in a car accident before our son was born. Our son, now 9, has frequently asked about his birthmother but never about his birthfather. Is this the right time to tell him that his birthfather died? Should I tell him how he died?

A: The desire to protect kids from difficult information is understandable. But with adoption, a lack of information can lead children to fantasize about the past. The truth frees children to use their energy in more productive ways.

As to when to tell: Generally, by age 7, children start to understand the complexities of adoption, and, by age 9, they understand that death is permanent. That said, you should consider your childís temperament and maturity before deciding when to share this information.

Itís not uncommon for childen not to ask about birthfathers. In general, we donít talk about birthfathers as much, because we often know less about them. Based on my experience, Iíd say that your son probably wonders about his birthfather but doesnít ask because no one has mentioned him.

You might ask your son if heís thought about him, and what heís thinking. Say you have information about his birthfather that you want to share with him. Keep in mind that kids his age often wonder why they were placed for adoption. If the death of his birthfather was a reason for your sonís placement, youíll want to discuss that with him. Finally, an adoption support group might be a good resource for your son.

--Debbie B. Riley, executive director of the Center for Adoption Support and Education Inc., in Silver Spring, MD.

Q: I placed a child for adoption before starting my present family. How do I explain to my 6-year-old that he has a biological sibling living in another state?

A: Ideally, a child grows up knowing about a sibling from the earliest age. When you tell your child about his sibling, remember that children are literal, and avoid phrases such as ďgive up for adoption.Ē Reassure your child that while placing his sibling for adoption was the best decision for him, you will be his parent forever. This is important, as many children wonder if they will also be placed.

Your child may also need reassurance that his sibling is OK, or go through a period in which he wishes that he lived with the sibling. Whenever possible, a real relationship between siblings should be supported. Itís best to focus on all the children affected by an adoption, not just the child who was placed.

--Brenda Romanchik, director of Insight: Open Adoption Resources and Support, in Royal Oak, Mich.

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