How Does Adopting Impact Your Older Kids?

Do you ever worry about how adopting children with significant trauma histories is impacting your other children?

I was feeling discouraged about one of the younger kids, my brain wearied by the challenge of parenting kids with challenges. I said something to one of my older sons about adoption being really hard on everyone.

He replied, “I’m glad we adopted. I’m completely different because of it and I like the person I am much better than who I would have been.”

He went on to talk about who he was before we adopted and how our lives would have looked if we’d stayed on the same path. Adopting our kids derailed us from the track we were on, setting us on a new course we could never have imagined. Our family was profoundly changed.

One of the questions I ask in the survey for my sibling book is, “How has the experience of adding adopted siblings to your family shaped you?”

In the responses, young adults often reflect on the positive changes in themselves. Their faith was strengthened through the challenges. Their education and career choices were influenced based on the experience. A significant number say they may adopt in the future.

Undoubtedly, it’s easier for adults to reflect back than it is for teens and kids still living in the midst of trauma and chaos. Yet even those kids often have positive things to say about how they are being shaped for the better.

Several of my adult kids talk about becoming more compassionate toward people with mental illness. They have greater compassion for people with complex drug or criminal histories. They have a better understanding of racism.

As a result, they’ve chosen to volunteer in youth ministry, work with children in the medical field, donate money to support mothers and children, and more. Just last week Annarose began teaching English to young teens at a low-income school in Colombia where she is living this semester. I don’t know if that would have happened if our lives hadn’t changed so much.

Our kids acknowledge the complexity of our family and I know they worry about us sometimes. That’s a common theme among young adults whose parents are still in the thick of therapeutic parenting. They are concerned for their parents’ health, marriage, finances and more.

As much as we love our kids, God loves them more. He is working everything for their good and his glory. If you are afraid for your kids or worry you may have ruined their lives because life in your home is so difficult, don’t lose hope. God is at work.

That being said, we should concern ourselves with the safety and well-being of the kids already in our homes when we consider adopting or fostering. They should be at the top of our list as we seek wisdom.

We answer to God for the children he has already given us. It does not honor God to adopt or foster knowing we are likely putting our children at risk.

Be wise, friends.

While Russ and I can’t change what has been, we’re working hard to make our older kids a priority. They lost us for many painfully difficult years. Thankfully, they still love us and want to be with us.

And I just need to say, there’s not much better than having adult kids who sit and talk about fascinating things over a cup of coffee.  Sweet rewards are coming young mamas, hang on!

Question: How are your kids being shaped by the experience of adding children from “hard places” to your family?


If your kids (of any age) would like to participate in my book, you can find the survey HERE. Please note, it is not intended only for children born into the family. The project is also for adopted children who families later added children from “hard places.”

Lastly, don’t miss my weekly email, 3 Thankful Thoughts. I keep it short and sweet with links to recent posts and other things I find worth sharing. Plus, it’s a fun way to keep in touch with my closer circle of friends/readers. Join me!



Have a wonderful day, friends. I am so grateful for your presence in my life and I hope I am a blessing to you too.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

14 Comments

  1. Becky Huber
    April 16, 2018

    Unfortunately, our adoption story turned out much shorter than we wanted. But, in the 4 short months we had Rebeka home with us, our older kids were impacted greatly. I can see my 13 year old boy with much more gentleness and compassion. My 11 year old daughter now wants to be a nurse and work with pediatric cancer patients. She says being with those kids and working in a hospital would make her feel close to Rebeka. And our youngest, 7 year old, grew immensely in her confidence as a big sister. Rebeka did not make it easy to love her. She rejected us all at times. But my big kids never gave up trying with her. They all worked hard to find something special to share with her. For Josh, it was music. They jammed together a lot to Christian rap music. For Hannah, it was easy. She is naturally a little mommy. Rebeka took her last breath in her big sister’s arms. I believe it is because she felt safe there. And Bethany and Rebeka loved to color and paint together. Rebeka also loved to watch Bethany pretend to trip and fall over and over. I think the greatest thing they learned from having a sister from a hard place is that we don’t live the same way most people do. We do things that people don’t understand. I think they are still learning that it’s ok to stand out and look weird to others when it’s in the name of love.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 16, 2018

      Becky, thank you for your beautiful comment and your beautiful heart. You’ve made a really good point about our kids learning that many people will not understand our decisions and it’s okay. God is walking with us in our decisions to love the ones who need us.

      Reply
  2. Jane VanDeventer
    April 16, 2018

    Thank-you. This post touched my heart deeply today, as we are dealing with some of these very issues right now. I have been having discussions with my older bio. kids as to the impact our life choices have had on them. They have lost a little adopted brother to death, several years ago…and now recently another adopted brother….to prison. So many “feels”…..a lot of concern on my part about them, guilt and worry. But it is such a blessing to have them assure me…that we will all be OK….we ARE all OK, because we have been obedient to Gods call for our family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 16, 2018

      God holds us near in the hardest moments. I’m sorry for the losses your family has had — I’m glad you have a strong faith to fall on.

      Reply
  3. Cherry Duckett
    April 16, 2018

    We are currently in very challenging time. Our youngest bio son is 16 and our oldest adopted son is 16. Our adopted son is acting out and his anger quickly turns to our biological son. We are trying to help our biological son understand the trauma and related behaviors. Please pray. Thank yiu

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 16, 2018

      Cherry, this is so hard. I wish we had listened more closely to our kids who were the subjects of anger from their siblings, but we were overwhelmed with needs. I am praying for you now.

      Reply
  4. Alex
    April 16, 2018

    Thank you for this post, Lisa. As with all of your posts, I so appreciate your honesty. It’s encouraging and thought-provoking to hear about your experiences and those of the people who comment on your blog. I’m not sure that my family will be called to adopt, but either way I glean so much wisdom and insight reading your blog. God certainly uses your words to move me to prayer more often – and to pray in new ways (new to me, at least) for adoptive families and children. I’m really grateful for the small changes in my life as a result of meeting you and your commenters here.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 16, 2018

      Alex, I love that you pray for adoptive and foster families. I’m glad my blog is helpful to you! Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  5. AmyE
    April 16, 2018

    I still cry every time I think about my 3 olders and all they have gone through in the past 7+ years. 2 out of 3 have “survived” it and seem to be doing well. The one still at home is the one I worry most about. So hard to have them growing up in a home with anger and trauma every day. So appreciate you giving them an opportunity to share their thoughts and have their voice heard. My daughter said your survey was very therapeutic.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 17, 2018

      I’m so glad to hear that, Amy. It’s important to give voice to our children who are often forgotten. I still cry sometimes too.

      Reply
  6. Amy
    April 17, 2018

    Thank you for this article. I think my bio kids are much more aware that people we may meet may be dealing with hard issues that we do not know about. Don’t be so quick to judge. And I think they have had to pray more and remember God’s promises of hope when it seems hopeless, because there are times that other people don’t understand what a sibling is like at home.
    We would appreciate prayer for our family and our adopted son. He is facing some tough choices ahead. Our family is worn out from his anger and behaviors that have escalated over the past 5 years and we are near our breaking point. Something has to change. We hope he takes the opportunities available to work at healing, so that we do not have to look for another option. Hard stuff!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 17, 2018

      Very hard stuff, Amy. I am praying for your son and your family now. Blessings to you.

      Reply
  7. C
    April 21, 2018

    I think your question about siblings might apply to trauma in general, as well. I know families who have adopted and families who have had a different type of trauma (a sibling has a terminal illness or one has been molested at church over a lengthy period of time, eg) that has profoundly affected the other siblings in the home. From an observer’s standpoint, there are many similarities between the way those different types of trauma affect the other children in the home–both adopted/foster families AND families who have gone through a different type of trauma. In all those situations, I think anxiety and withdrawal has played a significant role.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 21, 2018

      That’s a very good observation. Trauma for one member of the family affects the whole family. Thanks for pointing that out and sharing your thoughts.

      Reply

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