Helping Children Welcome a New Sibling in Adoption
We know that the impact of adoption can be lifelong for all members of the adoption constellation, and families achieve better outcomes when they have access to the supports and services they need. Adoption can change the roles, relationships, and routines that define families. When preparing a family for adoption, it is important to consider how these changes in dynamics affect the entire family unit, including the children who are already in the home. This article and the supporting resources examine the impact of adoption on children already in the home and share strategies to help parents address their children’s needs.
Welcoming a new sibling can be challenging but exciting for children. There is anticipation of having someone new to play or hang out with, but there may also be questions about what it will be like. We have highlighted some common concerns children may have and suggestions for what parents can do below.
- Children may worry about losing their parent’s attention or feel ignored, which can cause feelings of resentment or rivalry toward their sibling.
- Parents can:
- Reassure children that there is enough to go around (parental time, toys, food, and love).
- Provide realistic expectations of the new sibling’s needs and set aside time to talk through what may change in the family.
- Spend regularly scheduled quality time with each child.
- Help siblings understand each other’s experiences and the impact they can have on feelings and behaviors.
- Create new rituals or family traditions that include all members of the family.
- In some cases, if children see their parents and sibling struggling to adjust, they may focus their efforts on helping or trying to be “perfect.”
- Parents can:
- Reassure each child of their place in the family and talk with them about what you can do to ease the adjustment for them.
- Recognize each child’s strengths and give them opportunities to shine.
- Include children in pre- and postadoption training and services as it is age appropriate.
- Children may act out or regress to an earlier behavior.
- Parents can:
- Remember that it is normal for children to have some changes in their behaviors during stressful times (such as when a new child joins the family), but these behaviors will not last forever.
- Provide a separate space in the home where each child feels comfortable and can go if they want to be alone.
- Create an environment where each child feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings.
- Ensure that each child has access to their own support system and services, if needed.
Fortunately, if we can prepare the entire family for adoption and provide tools to address adoption issues, it will help families improve their communication and functioning, which could make it easier for siblings to bond with each other. Since every child and family is different, it is important to pay attention to the personalities and needs of each child and watch how they interact with each other. This will provide important context for how to help children adjust and build healthy relationships.
3 Resources on Helping Children Welcome a New Sibling Through Adoption
For more information, visit at https://www.childwelfare.gov.
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