Editor: This post comes to us from one of our readers, who wanted to share his experiences as a child with adopted siblings.
When I was 13 years old, my parents approached me and my siblings and told us that they were going to adopt. We approved unanimously. The younger ones didn’t quite understand the concept, and my older sister and I were both used to adding children to the family—what did it matter if the 7th child came the “normal” way or through an adoption agency?
There isn’t a lot of material out there for and about adoptive siblings. Most adoption articles and news revolve around birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child who is being adopted. But if adoptive parents have biological children, those children are an integral part of the process too.
For some children, welcoming a new sibling into the home can be difficult. This is true whether the new addition is biological or adopted, however, and there is no standard for how children will react. Levels of jealousy, excitement, and acceptance will all vary depending on the size of the family, the age and background of the new child, and how the parents deal with the adoption. Every situation is different — there is no step-by-step manual for preparing children to add a new child to the home.
Understand Your Children
For parents, adopting a child is a long and arduous journey. My mother always said that adopting a child was far more stressful than carrying and giving birth to one. But ultimately, the adoption process is an exciting and wonderful time. Although parents might be nervous about bringing a new child into their home, excitement and joy surely outweigh the doubts; they understand that adoption is a miracle in its own right.
For children, however, it can be a different story. Telling a young child that he or she is going to get a new sibling is an abstract concept. It’s like giving a near-sighted child a pair of glasses for the first time, or getting eyeglass lens replacements after your prescription has changed—you don’t know how dramatic the change will be until it actually happens.
That being said, it is important to understand where your children are coming from.
Communicate with your biological children. Let them tell you what they think about your decision to adopt. Let them tell you their fears or concerns, and make sure they know why you are adopting, what might change, and that adopting another child doesn’t mean you’ll love them any less. Make sure they understand that it might not be easy to adapt to a new brother or sister, but that you are excited for the opportunity to adopt a child who needs a family. They will be this new child’s siblings and main support group, and they have a vital role in helping a new child feel welcome in the family.
Keep your children up-to-date with the entire process. Show them pictures of their new future siblings. Let them pick out clothes and toys for infants or prepare bedroom space for older children. Help them be involved in every way you can, so that when the adopted children actually arrive it won’t be as much of a transition.
Involve Them in the Decision. Adoption impacts the entire family, and so to some extent it should be the entire family’s decision. Children should not be discounted because they do not understand the particulars of adoption; they should feel that their opinions are valid and appreciated. Ultimately, however, it should be up to the parents to decide what is best for both their biological and potential adopted children.
I don’t remember my parents asking me or my siblings if we wanted a new brother or sister, but I do remember them asking us how we felt about it. If we had protested, my parents would have taken the time to either reconsider their decision or prepare us better. However, like most large families, we were more than happy to welcome another child.
Consider Birth Order. Sibling dynamics are fairly stereotypical no matter where you go. Oldest children are used to being at the top of the food chain, middle children are more responsible and diplomatic, and youngest children are often spoiled.
Inserting adopted children into the pecking order can be difficult on all of the children involved. If you adopt a group of biological siblings, the oldest child who may no longer be the oldest will have a hard time fitting into a new role. Youngest children who now have younger siblings will have difficulty adjusting to different responsibilities and having someone else “take their place”.
This wasn’t an issue for my family—all three children were infants when we adopted them, and so fitting them into the sibling dynamic was no different than my mother giving birth to 7, 8, and 9. But be aware of how the dynamic among your children may change, and be patient with them as they struggle to figure out where they belong in the family.
Trust Your Children
Trust that your children will be more accepting and loving than you might expect them to be. Kids aren’t perfect, and adoption might not be easy, but as you show the same kind of love for both your adopted and biological children, they will follow your example.
In my experience, family is family. It doesn’t matter that my three youngest siblings aren’t related to me biologically—they are related to me through shared experiences, love, and a mutual need and respect for each other. Some transitions are harder than others, but with the proper care and attention to all of your children’s needs, adoption can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences your family will ever have.
About the author:
Connor Adkins enjoys helping people stay fit and healthy. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, and in his spare time he blogs about health issues he learns from companies like Replacement Lens Express.