Monday's Answers: Preparing Children

Our Tuesday Topic came from Mary who asked:

We are planning on receiving 2 foster children in late August and I have 2 bio children already.  My bio children are 3 and 20 months and we will most likely be getting a toddler and an infant.  With such young children, how do you help bio children understand some of the special needs and extra attention foster children will need (or newly adopted children)?  How do you have reasonable expectations for everyone’s behavior without making everyone confused since the levels are different?  Any ideas from you mommies?

This is what you had to say:

Marissa wrote:

Honestly, I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do to prepare children that young. You can talk about it frequently (which we do) but nothing really prepares them for the emotional turmoil that comes with sharing a home, life and parent with another child.

As for expectations, I aim to keep it minimal so that there’s no reason for confusion. Everyone gets to act like a baby when a new child comes home. 🙂 Once the children learn to love and share, there’s very little confusion as expectations increase. I’m often amazed at children and their desire to sacrifice for another child that needs more than they do……as long as they are given the ability to get to that conclusion in their own time.

BJ wrote:

We have been foster parents for about nine years and have had over 100 children. It is never easy for bio children to understand the extra time and running that must be done. After a few months we are settled into a routine. The biggest issues we have faced are when it is time for the children to leave, this has always caused heartache and uneasiness for our younger children. They often fear that they wil have to leave someday or that we may not want them and they will have to go . Right now, our youngest just turned four and she will comment that she doesn’t want to go live with another family and does not ever want to be out of my sight.

On the up part, my children have learned how lucky they are to be in a family that loves them unconditionally. They are very caring about other feelings. We are soon to be a retired foster family as we have decided to persue another adoption and it comes in the form of five siblings. We wish you luck in your journey as foster parents, it is a rewarding experience .

Shari wrote:

The young age of your bio kids is a good thing & a “bad” thing. They are too young to understand much about the whys’ but young enough to just accept the disruption. … the new normal.
We’ve been foster/adoptive parents for 20 years… have mostly fostered infants who eventually became a permanent part of our famliy. It’s a wonderful, useful, fulfilling life…
I would suggest staying home ALOT in the beginning…some thing littles love anyway. We had good success w/ bonding by bringing the children to sleep w/ us. Our youngest daughter was 2 mths old when she came & was completely tense due to abuse…she about leaped out of her skin if we got too close too fast. After 2 weeks she relaxed & didn’t sleep w/ her fists clenched.

Jen wrote:

I don’t know if you can communicate to a 3 y.o. and 20 month old that you are going to have 2 new children and have different expectations for them. . . really, that is pretty far above their level of cognitive processing ability at this point.

We have fostered both a 1 and 2 y.o. sib. set, and a 2 and 3 y.o. sib. set (with their other 4 siblings too). Here is what worked for us REALLY WELL:

In my own head, I think (expect) there to be different behaviors, etc. . . so that I am not frustrated by unmet expectations (BUT)

I fully believe (and have seen twice now) that through consistent expectations and parenting, these (most likely) out of control, scared, traumatized children really can make HUGE progress in a short amount of time – obviously true healing takes a while, but you can get these little ones to a place where they and your other children are not miserable from their terrible behavior.

Here’s what we did both times:

The HAVE to sleep! So, for us, that meant a lot of rocking and bottles and reassurance each night with a very set bedtime routine of bath, stories, rocking, bottles, singing, and then to bed. After 5 sleepless nights with our first foster children, we learned our lesson and just decided that after lots of reassurance, they would have to go to bed in their own bed whether they had to cry a little or not. I know lots of people don’t agree, but for us, it was essential for all of us to be able to sleep and in both cases, both of the toddlers cried for about 15 minutes for about a week and then went to bed happily w/o tears.

#2 – for behavior – they have to obey (b/c they have to believe that we are really in charge so they can really trust us). So, when they didn’t obey, we would give them a help “say, ‘yes mama'” and do it right now! (said happily). . . if that didn’t work, we would say “oh, you didn’t obey mama, now you have to sit right here until you can say “yes, mama” (usually right down on the ground next to where we were sitting or standing and up against a cupboard, couch, or wall). This was not “time out” but was just a place for them to sit and wait until they were ready to obey.

At first, they would scream adn cry and try to get up. We just put them back and put them back and put them back with a gentle reminder until they stayed there. . . then, when the screaming or crying subsided, we would go over and get a verbal “yes” and a hug and then have them do something we asked (to obey). After about 3-4 weeks of this (and coupled with tons of other parenting – hugs, rocking, feeding, holding, etc. . . ), the “crazy chaotic” toddlers had changed into joyful, happy, children ready to obey (most of the time! LOL!)

Alyssa wrote:

I am not sure how to prepare such young children. We brought home our daughter when she was barley 4 years old. Our son was 2.5 at the time. Four months later our youngest daughter who was 18 monhts old, joined us. I didn’t understand the extent of the trauma she had endured. Although, it may have been nearly impossible, I wish I had been much more cautious in allowing time together. Especially unstructed play time. I wish I would have kept one or all of them within sight ALL the time. Both the younger children have some very real recovering to do these days. Other things to think about are to really listen to your little ones don’t assume they are problematic if they are having trouble adjusting watch things closely there may be more to the situation than meets the eye. Beyond that, make sure you pace yourself and find some quiet time to get out.

Thank you, ladies, for sharing your experiences and thoughts on how to prepare little ones; I enjoyed reading what you all had to say. If you missed leaving a comment, it’s not too late!  Feel free to leave one on this post.  If you have a Tuesday Topic you would like me to present, please email it to me at:

I have a great Tuesday Topic set to go for tomorrow morning – I hope to hear from many of you!

I am off to Seattle with Honeybee and Dimples.   See you all soon.


This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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.


  1. Mary
    July 5, 2010

    I'm Mary :). What an encouragement all of this is. The practical advice, the experience, all of it–thanks wise women for sharing :). I imagine I'll have to email Lisa again with another question after the little ones arrive. Thanks Lisa for giving us a place to help one another.

  2. NMF
    July 10, 2010

    I enjoyed reading this. I have an 11 m old, and we are wanting to bring home a foster infant sometime in the next 6 months. Jen, your response encouraged me. We found with our daughter that the ONLY way she will go to sleep is to just let her cry in her crib for a bit. I was so unsure if this would be a possibility with the foster children. It is encouraging to hear that this did work with you. Obviously, prayerfully and discerning as you go.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy