Managing Unfairness in an Adoptive Family

Angela Lumsden/Stocksy
When raising kids from different backgrounds, life can be unfair

I contemplated how to get the shoebox-sized package into our house without being spotted. Finally, I
decided to stuff it into our minivan to deal with later.

The package was for my 9-year-old
daughter, Faith, from her birth mom, who regularly sent packages. In contrast, my 11-year old,
Adelaine, had yet to receive one letter, photo or package from her birth family. Though our openness
agreements with both sets of birth parents were similar, the ways these agreements played out could
not have been more different.

Managing this disparity is tough. But it is only one example
of the challenges adoptive parents face when raising kids from different backgrounds.

your children’s skin colors don’t match, or maybe one child experienced years of neglect while
another’s only memory is of plenty. Such incongruities can potentially mess with our kids’
understanding of love and belonging.

Here are some strategies to overcome those disparities:

Gently speak the truth.

Tell your child as much as you can about her biological
family, always erring on the side of grace. For Adelaine, it was helpful to know that her birth
mother struggled to make ends meet, which shed light on her inability to send gifts.

Make meaningful connections.

Weave discussion about your child’s birth parents into everyday
conversations. Recently, Adelaine received a school award for sewing. “Nena would be proud,” I told
her. “She loved to sew!” Adelaine’s smile told me I’d succeeded in sparking a small but meaningful
connection between her and her birth mom.

Minimize the hurt.

It is important to celebrate
when your child hears from his birth family, but do so one-on-one to diminish the sting for the
other children. We intentionally give Faith gifts from her birth family when Adelaine is otherwise

Encourage empathy.

Help your children step inside their siblings’ stories. We
discuss with Faith how she might feel if Adelaine received contact from her birth family and she
didn’t. This encourages Faith to be thoughtful when she interacts with Adelaine.

Schedule quality time.

When a child is struggling and feeling detached from your family, spending quality
time with you becomes the child’s lifeline. This special time communicates that — regardless of
background or biology — he is an irreplaceable part of your family.

Above all, don’t forget to pray.

Raising well-adjusted kids with a healthy sense of self is a daunting task, and God is more than
able to help us fill in the gaps.


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