Let’s face it. There will always be some kind of conflict among siblings, whether they are siblings by natural birth or adoption. Your children often come with different personalities. They may feel the need to compete for limited family resources. They will bicker and disagree over a variety of subjects – bathroom time or the use of the family computer or video game. That is how siblings are.
However, if you have both children by natural birth and by A Act of Love adoption, there may be an extra layer of conflict from among your children. As a parent, you can work proactively to understand and resolve conflict, as well as promote a harmonious family life that is marked by love and respect for each member of the family.
Here are some ways to help your children relate with their siblings:
– Prepare your existing children for a new addition. Whether you are anticipating or are in the process of adopting, it is vital to prepare your children for the entrance of the newest family member. A child may have apprehensions about a new sibling and how this may change how you feel about him. If you have adopted and are expecting a biological child, your adopted child may feel that you are replacing him. If you have a biological child and are adopting, your child may feel jealous of all the time you are spending in the preparations and paperwork involved in the adoption. Constantly reassure your existing child that your love for him is constant and will not change, and that the heart has the capacity to “grow bigger” as your family adds in number. Make him feel involved in the preparations you have to welcome his new sibling. Seek his help in preparing the new siblings things or in decorating the room.
– Treat each child equally. Giving special treatment to one child will be a slippery slope into more rivalry between siblings. Treating your adopted child with kid gloves in the fear that he may not feel wanted may engender jealousy as well as conflicting feelings between your adopted and biological parents. A child may take the special treatment as a sign that he is not actually part of the family and is only there as a guest. Rather, treat each child equally and fairly. Equally divide the share of chores the children can do. Equally distribute the budget for gifts (Christmas and birthdays) among the children so that no one gets a grander gift than the other. Reward or reprimand a child as warranted. Expect grandparents and other loved ones to do the same and not give preferential treatment, especially to biological grandparents, nieces or nephews.
– Never compare one child to the other. Words such as “Why can’t you be like your brother/sister?”, “This is the well-behaved one while that is our black sheep.” can be terribly wounding to a child. In fact, he may carry the scars to his teenage years and adulthood. If there are things to correct, the act of love is to firmly but gently focus on the behavioral problem at hand, without the need to compare his behavior to the behavior of his siblings.
– Treat each child as individuals. Each child is unique, with different capabilities and gifts. Recognize that a child by adoption will inherit the talents and traits of his biological parents. This may mean that your child by adoption will not be like his musically-inclined siblings but may lean more towards athletics. Rather than trying to fit each child into the family mold, help your child discover his gifts and provide him with support in developing these.
– Never allow your children to use a child’s adoption and adoption story as a weapon. It is only natural for siblings to bicker and have disagreements. However, the fact of a sibling’s adoption should not be brandished like a sword. Another way to use adoption as a weapon is to threaten to publicize parts of the sibling’s adoption story as a punishment. The siblings should clearly understand that you will not tolerate this. The key is to establish respect as a vital part of your family’s culture and show all that they are truly an act of love!