There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a family. These days, families are created by birth, IVF, surrogacy, adoption, and more. Many parents even use a combination of these methods to grow their families. If you already have biological children but are considering adopting, you may be wondering what the impact adoption would have on their sibling relationships and your family overall. When a new child enters the picture, whether by birth or through adoption, the family dynamic fundamentally changes which will impact your child. And in this case, the impact can be deeply positive. Read more to discover how adoption impacts sibling relationships and tips for parenting biological and adopted children.
Why are sibling relationships important in adoption?
In life, one of the most important and formative relationships is the one we have with our siblings. When a new child is coming into an existing family with an established dynamic, this relationship can be even more important. Biological siblings can be a source of comfort and guidance for their adopted sibling and vice versa. Good sibling relationships can have positive effects on children’s emotional and social development while also offering lifelong companionship. To learn more about the importance of sibling relationships and adoption, you can look at this study done by scholars at Cardiff University where this topic was evaluated.
Consider the Children’s Ages
If you are considering adoption after having a biological child, something you should keep in mind is birth order and the ages of the potential siblings. Once you’ve decided that your family is open to adoption, you should start thinking about your children’s ages, their birth order, and how to handle the sibling relationship no matter what the birth order ends up being. Of course, every child has their own personality and role they play in your family, but when you are adopting while having a biological child, you should be mindful that this is a factor.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with adopting a child that is older than your biological child, and many families pursue this path! Alternatively, other families prefer to adopt children who are younger than their biological child, and pursue domestic infant adoption in order to preserve the birth order. Remember you will be making the best choice for you and your family no matter what age your adopted and biological children are.
Tips for parenting biological and adopted siblings
Most parents want to foster positive relationships among their children in order to facilitate an overall positive family dynamic. As a prospective adoptive parent, you may be wondering what you need to consider if you will be parenting both a biological and adoptive child. Here are some tips for raising an adoptive and biological child together.
1.) Explain how adoption works.
If you are considering the adoption process, or already going through the process, it’s a good idea to explain how adoption works to your biological children in an age-appropriate way. It is important for your biological children to understand what adoption is, how it works, and what they can expect from the process.
We also recommend asking children their opinion on bringing a sibling into the family through adoption before proceeding with the process. This allows them to ask any questions and get used to the idea of having an adopted sibling. Children are naturally curious, which gives you a chance to be open and honest about why you are adopting and how it will affect them.
2.) Prepare your child for their new sibling.
Before the adoption is finalized, it is important to prepare your biological child for the arrival of their new family member. This gives them the space to have time to process their feelings and emotionally prepare for the family dynamic to change. We suggest approaching the preparations with honesty and openness while considering your child’s unique personality. As appropriate, you can include your children in the process by having them help pick out their siblings toys or clothes, drawing pictures to welcome them into the family, or even participating in various aspects of the adoption process if they’re old enough.
3.) Avoid favoritism.
Arguably, one of the most important actions you can take to encourage a healthy sibling relationship is avoiding favoritism. Children easily pick up on the things and feelings of others, and will notice if they are not being treated the same as their new sibling. For this reason, we recommend being consistent in discipline, praise, and chores in order to ensure no child is receiving special treatment. Something else to keep an eye on is how your children are treated by their extended family. If it seems like they are favoring one child over another, it may be necessary to have a conversation with those family members to educate them about adoption.
4.) Teach about differences.
The nature of adoption makes it so that adopted children do not generally resemble their other family members, which creates a situation where they have the potential to feel othered or experience unwanted attention. If your child experiences unwanted attention due to being an adoptee, it is likely that their sibling will be their number one protector, especially if they are close in age.
As you navigate raising an adopted child, you should teach all of your children about the beauty of diversity while emphasizing that families can be created through love, not genetics. If your child comes from a cultural or racial background that is different from your own, celebrate their heritage while incorporating traditions into your family to encourage the acceptance and celebration of differences.
5.) Consult an expert.
If you are experiencing difficulties as you navigate your newly formed family dynamic, particularly if a child is having behavior problems, you can consult an expert. A family counselor or adoption professional can help you identify methods that can work for your family to encourage healthy sibling relationships. Additionally, if you are going through the adoption process and are concerned about how adopting a child will affect their future sibling, an adoption professional or family counselor can give you the tools you need to help you ease your mind.
As you are considering adoption, going through the adoption process, or have recently finalized an adoption, keep in mind that every family dynamic and child are different. As a parent, you know your child best and can trust yourself with successfully navigating bringing an adopted child into your family. If you approach your relationship with all of your children with love, openness, and consistency, your family will have strong bonds for years to come.