In the last four years, my husband, John, and I have adopted six
children from foster care. With each addition, we’ve realized anew just
how much an adoption can affect not only the most recent arrival, but
also the little ones already in our home.
When Bella and Casey
joined our family, we had to help 3-year-old Alyssa understand that her
new siblings needed a lot of attention and assistance. Most recently
with the arrival of a sibling group of four girls, Casey and Bella were
the ones feeling left out.
All of our kids need time to adjust to
their new reality, so it’s important that we as parents gently guide
Teach them compassion.
We can ease the adjustment
by helping our kids grasp — and empathize with — their siblings’ plight.
Without giving too many details, I told our children, “Your new sisters
have been through hard things. They haven’t been treated well. They’ve
been separated from one another, and they also worry about living with
us.” I also cautioned them: “Since sometimes it’s easier for others to
act mean when they’re worried or scared, remember that they need our
Starting with compassion softened our kids’ hearts. It
helped them see that when their siblings treated them unfairly or made
demands of Mom or Dad, it was often because of anxiety or
Help them cope with anger.
Newly adopted children get angry
for many reasons. Even small misunderstandings can escalate into big
fits. I told our kids, “It may seem as if your sibling is angry at you,
but usually it’s anger that’s been there a long time.”
understand the reasons behind someone’s anger, they usually deal better
with it. We reminded our children that they sometimes get angry, too,
and that we all can be hard to live with at times.
one-on-one time with each child.
The children already in our home needed
to know that they were not being replaced and that they would always be
loved. We took time to read books together, do crafts or go on outings.
The hardest part of adding new family members is making time for each
child, but it’s often what they need most.
Nearly a year has
passed since we brought our last sibling group home. While there has
definitely been a learning curve, it’s wonderful to see all the kids
bond — with us and with one another.
Tricia Goyer is the author or co-author of multiple books, including Lead Your Family Like Jesus.