Adoption for Families with Children: How to Help Siblings Adjust


Although adoption often involves childless couples bringing a child home, there are many adoptions that involve families who already have children, including previous biological and/or adopted children. Adoption for these families brings its own set of adjustments and challenges, as the siblings get accustomed to each other and the family settles into new patterns that now include the adopted child. As one of these families, therefore, you should realize that you are not alone in facing the need to integrate your new child into your family. Following are a few of the steps you can take to make the adjustment easier for everyone involved.


Adoption for families with children should include early and frequent communication.

As an adoptive family with children, early and frequent communication is essential in laying the groundwork for successful sibling relationships. When exactly you announce your plans to adopt and how exactly you approach subsequent conversations on the topic will depend largely upon the ages of your children and the unique circumstances surrounding the adoption.


For instance, you may need to wait until you are matched with your adoptive child or are ready to bring them home before you let younger children know about the adoption, because younger children do not have a firm grasp of time and may become anxious if the process is dragged out too long. Older children, on the other hand, are more likely to benefit from an early announcement that gives them time to discuss and to process their feelings about the adoption.


Once you tell your other children about the adoption, you should use the time before the adoption is finalized to discuss what your other children can expect once their sibling comes home. For instance, small children may benefit from practicing with a doll, while older children may need reassurance that a new sibling will not displace them from their current role in the home. By taking time to have multiple discussions about the upcoming adoption, you can better prepare your children for the transitions that will occur once their sibling comes home.


Helping your other children adjust should include validating their feelings.

Children will each feel differently about the adoption of a new sibling, and these feelings may not always be positive. For instance, they may at times express feelings of anger, resentment, or jealousy, even when you would prefer that they feel as excited and loving toward their new sibling as you do. However, regardless of whether or not your children respond to the new sibling the way you want them to, you should make the effort to accept their feelings on the subject.


For instance, if your child expresses frustration with the amount of attention the new child is getting from you, instead of rebuking them for being selfish, you could consider responding with empathy and concrete plans for the two of you to spend time together. If your child expresses dismay at needing to share with their new sibling, you could sympathize and allow them to keep a few toys that they do not have to share. By being a safe place to express all of their feelings, both good and bad, you provide a way for them to work through any challenges they face during the transition.


Adoption for families with children should include one-on-one time with the other siblings.

A newly adopted child generally requires a great deal of attention. For instance, you will need to spend large amounts of time bonding with them, helping them adjust to a new culture in the case of an international adoption, providing for their physical needs, and helping them work through their own feelings regarding the adoption or any trauma they experienced prior to the adoption.


This level of attention can make your other children feel as if they are being left out. In order to prevent feelings of jealousy and resentment, and in order to reassure them of your continued love, you should set aside regular one-on-one time with your other children. What you do with your child during this time will depend in large part upon your own child. Some children may require time to snuggle and read, while others might enjoy a weekly date or engaging in a favorite hobby with you. Regardless of how pressured your time may feel, carving out these spaces to be with your other children allows you to communicate your continued love for and commitment to them.


Helping your other children adjust should include allowing them to help.

Finally, you can facilitate an easier adjustment between your children and their new sibling by creating ways for them to help with their new sibling. Adoptive couples in San Antonio and elsewhere have found that doing so allows them to more effectively deflect frustration and jealousy by allowing the siblings to be directly involved in the care of their sibling.


There are many ways that even young children can assist with the new sibling. For instance, if you pursue an infant domestic adoption, you may find that your other child or children enjoy preparing bottles, handing you diapers, or playing with the new baby. Alternatively, if you pursue an older child adoption, you may find that your children enjoy introducing their sibling to family traditions. Other ideas include allowing your child to help prepare their sibling’s room for their arrival, or allowing them to pick out baby gear for the baby’s arrival.


Adoption for families that already include children does not have to be an overwhelming process. Instead, the right preparation and communication can allow adoptive families in San Antonio and elsewhere to help their children grow to appreciate each other in deep and meaningful ways. By talking about the adoption ahead of time, validating their feelings, setting aside one-on-one time for other siblings, and creating ways for your other children to help with their new sibling, you can set all of your children up for an easier transition.



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