Welcoming a Sibling Through Adoption
When you adopt a child, whether an infant or an older child, the unknowns can be overwhelming for your children. The “when” of the event is one of the biggest issues. In a child’s eyes, a finished Home Study and completed training's should logically result in the imminent arrival of a new brother or sister. When days and weeks turn into a year, much of the initial excitement and even emotional preparation fades. Many parents find they must go back and review earlier steps for sibling preparation. Parents may need to cycle back several times to educate and prepare their children before the adoption is complete and a new child enters the home.
Tips to Prepare Your Children for a New Sibling
Find families that have a similar adoption experience. Whether for international, transracial, foster care, infant, special needs, or older child support needs, you can typically find support groups by contacting your adoption specialist or networking with an adoption care ministry. Explain to your children that you will be meeting other families that have adopted, and then talk to your children after these events. Ask them how they thought older siblings felt when those families adopted younger children into the family—this plants the seed of realization that there will be both joys and struggles when they finally get the brother or sister they have prayed for.
Plan a celebration dinner. Shortly after the new child arrives, plan a celebration similar to a birthday party, but for immediate family only. No guests. Decorate a cake with everyone’s names on it, and have the children give gifts to each other. This is the important part: Not only does the new child receive presents from the other children, but the new child gives presents to the other children. This doesn’t have to be terribly expensive to make the point; simply work with whatever is in your budget. Even if your adopted child is an infant, this celebration is an important visual cue to other children that they are just as valued as the newly arrived member of the family.
Spend one-on-one time with your children. This can be difficult, depending on the age or circumstance of the new child in the home, but it will be important to provide each child with some “alone” time with Mom or Dad. If you are a single parent, you might consider getting a sitter for a couple of hours and taking each child out one at a time.
Every child will feel a bit like he or she has been “pushed aside” for a new brother or sister. Children, by nature, feel they are the center of things. This is a survival instinct and cannot be completely alleviated by a parent’s careful planning and preparation. A gentle hug from Mom or Dad and an assuring “I understand; things will be better one day” is sometimes the best we parents can do.
Even if we at one time enjoyed being an only child, most of us who had a sibling are glad we had someone to help us navigate childhood and share our family memories.