The relationships created with siblings, adopted or unadopted, can create a positive and helpful environment for the children’s development. There are different challenges that can come up for brothers and sisters. The following blog will discuss the different dynamics of sibling relationships, including issues of sibling rivalry, and the benefits of sibling relationships for an adoptee. Part one of the sibling relationships blog includes a one-on-one interview I conducted with my older non-adoptive brother, the interview can be read here.
There are various relationships that are defined as sibling relationships. These definitions can be found in discussions with the caseworker, in official legislation or simply in the general usage. Some relationships identified as siblings relationships are: foster/adopted siblings, step-siblings, full or half biological siblings, any child who may have been relinquished or removed at birth, and individuals conceived from the same sperm and/or egg donor. Some laws may restrict the definition of siblings requiring them to have a biological parent in common, or, in non-biological relationships to have a common source of support. However, the child is the best source when defining who is considered a sibling.
Adopted children, in particular, may show microaggressions directed toward their adoptive family. Behaviors that are shown to the parents from the adoptee may sometimes be harsh, and hostile on their viewpoints of adoption. An important relationship that can help transform in both positive and negative ways is the relationship with the siblings.
A child’s development stage plays a role in how well he or she adjusts to adoption. Siblings can be key in creating and providing positive companionship, protection, support, and comfort. Sometimes sibling rivalry may occur, leading to jealousy and competition of attention from the adoptive parent(s). Moreover, one child may feel the younger child (whether adopted or not) is receiving preferential treatment that they may not have ever received, or they may feel displaced or confused.
As the adopted child grows up with their new sibling(s), there may be harbored aggression and anger towards the adoptive family members, which can lead to sibling rivalries. This can occur during the preschool and middle childhood years, depending on the relationship. Transracially adopted youth, in particular, may often be affected if they have white siblings and may feel “different” and not really connected to the siblings. The child may need the siblings to understand the experiences that are frequently dictated by race and may rely on that sibling to develop a willingness to fight racism.
Parents may want to consider trying the following suggestions when mending sibling issues between the adoptee and non-adopted child. Creating family journals can help with understanding differing perceptions of family dynamics. Problem-solving discussions can allow all voices to be heard in a calm setting. This can also begin the process of looking at sibling relationships issues that may have occurred, and that can then be addressed regularly. To assist with healthy development, it may be a good idea for family members to seek counseling during early childhood to early adulthood. This may help as a coping mechanism as well as encourage them to understand the different issues and perspectives within their adoptive family. Other options may also include: promoting open communication, giving each child individual attention and quality time, and being around other children that may be in a similar situation as the adoptive family. These suggestions can help to create a nurturing and helpful environment for both non-adopted siblings and the adoptive individual.
Building strong sibling relationships is critical and rewarding during the adoptee’s childhood and creates a lifelong bond with those siblings. Children learn social skills from sharing, managing conflict, and negotiating with their brothers and sisters. They can provide significant relationships and connections between both siblings that help the adoptee with loneliness, self-esteem and self-image issues and can lead to fewer behavior problems. Even though relationships between siblings can be rather challenging, the beneficial aspect of the relationship offers the adoptee and the sibling comfort and support during times of need. Thus, the relationship can then unite them for life.
The adopted child may still experience difficulties in coping with the new family. This all depends on what actions were taken to help the adopted individual. Different age groups require different steps and necessary actions. The positive possibilities outweigh the negative. Adoptive parents may want to prepare the existing child by having conversations about the adoption so they do not feel ambushed by the arrival of a new brother and/or sister.
The relationships between newly siblings can create positive elements within the adoptive family, including: comfort, reassurance, and companionship. These are thought to be important for the adoptive individual when they are faced with anxiety-provoking situations, because it allows for both siblings to show affection and trust during the times spent together. Ultimately, spending more time at home the existing child can allow for a smoother transition and readiness for the new child.
Prospective adoptive parents may experience positive sibling dynamics but should prepare for sibling rivalry and disagreements between both children. Parents can further the conversation between both their existing child and their adoptive child to create stronger relationships and better communication between everyone. Finally, parents can attend to the need of early support to address possible concerns that may arise before or after the adoption. This may include a counselor or finding a time and place where the family can bond together.
Relationships are a process and take time when you are building a connection between siblings, parents and the adoptive individual. Encouragingly, the suggestions mentioned throughout this blog can help sibling relationships flourish with the adoptive family, and should be considered a process the adoptive family should consider before and after the adoption. To read part one of my interview with my non-adoptive brother on our own sibling relationship and family hardships, you may read the interview here.
If you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Nevada. You may visit our website here or contact us by phone at, 775-825-4673 (Reno Office) or 702-474-4673 (Las Vegas Office). Our hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm PST.
About the Author
Rachel Strom graduated from Lehman College in the Bronx in May of 2018, where she received her bachelors in Professional Writing. After receiving her education at Lehman College, Rachel is currently interning at Adoption Choices Inc., where she is a weekly blogger.
Rachel was adopted from Asuncion, Paraguay in 1991. Her adoption experience has helped her write articles for Adoption Choices Inc., from the perspective of an adoptive individual. She hopes the articles that are written can help someone looking into adoption or perhaps, is currently in the process of adopting.
When Rachel is not writing for Adoption Choices Inc. or her own novels she enjoys her other passion for baking, where she resides, in the New York City area. When she is baking, music is always playing throughout the kitchen while she is whipping up a delectable dessert for her friends and adoptive family.
Brown, Jane. “Adoption & Sibling Relationships: What Children Have Taught Me.” The North American Council on Adoptable Children, 29 May 2017, www.nacac.org/resource/adoption-sibling-relationships/.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Sibling issues in foster care and adoption. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
Meakings, Sarah, et al. “Influence of Adoption on Sibling Relationships: Experiences and Support Needs of Newly Formed Adoptive Families.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 14 Oct. 2017, academic.oup.com/bjsw/article/47/6/1781/4554334.
McQuillan M.S., RDN, Susan. “Adoption and Sibling Relationships.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 6 Dec. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cravings/201712/adoption-and-sibling-relationships.
Picsea/Unsplash. Man and baby. 2017.
Shepherd, Christen. “Why Openness with Biological Siblings Matters for Adopted Kids.” Today’s Parent, Today’s Parent, 8 Aug. 2018, www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/why-openness-with-biological-siblings-matters-for-adopted-kids/.
Ten Myths and Realities of Sibling Adoption. AdoptUSKids. Children’s Bureau. https://www.adoptuskids.org/_assets/files/NRCRRFAP/resources/ten-myths-and-realities-of-sibling-adoptions.pdf