Reflections on Siblings of a Newly Adopted Child
PARENTS YOU ARE NOT FAILING
Parents, you are doing better than you think you are. Own the way that adoption has impacted your family. Empathize with your children’s frustrations and acknowledge them instead of overlooking or becoming overly absorbed in the challenges presented by the adoption.
SIBLINGS CAN HAVE A HARD TIME WATCHING THEIR PARENTS
Adoption is hard. It is difficult to watch a once strong parent go through stress and worry. As parents you cannot hide your angst and stress—it will be noticed. Children notice this stress and can become stressed as a result. This shift can make the family life seem unsafe and insecure. Just be aware of this dynamic and offer reassurance to your children.
SIBLINGS’ EYES ARE OPENED
Adoption exposes siblings to feelings and experiences that they have never had to deal with previously. This can present difficulties adapting. Their eyes are opened to the brokenness in the world through the hardships that their new sibling(s) has endured. In addition, they can see the behavioral issues and sense the tensions now present in the home.
SIBLINGS WANT TO BE SEEN AND VALUED
Oftentimes adoption can cause (accidental) casting aside of the siblings to tend to the new cares of the adoptee. This causes the siblings to step into new roles to be seen. This can generate poor behaviors to get attention or can lead them to caregiving roles to relieve parent’s stress. Again, acknowledging this potential dynamic is key to helping siblings to adjust in healthy ways.
HARD FOR SIBLINGS TO TALK ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS
Siblings are often scared to talk about the adoption. They have many fears and feel like they can’t express them or they will be dismissed, judged, or blamed. “Talking about the hard doesn’t discount all of the good that comes from adoption” (Hunsley).
LOOKING FORWARD IT IS HELPFUL TO:
Create safe spaces to talk about feelings.
Communicate that siblings of the adoptee are valued without them having to earn that praise.
Build in time for one-on-one connection.
Honor and realize the challenges and joys of adoption.