Tuesday Topic: Changing Birth Order

Here it is, a new Tuesday Topic, posted on a Wednesday no less.  I got home from Seattle too late last night to start blogging, although I was tempted.   We had a truly fantastic time at camp and were sad to see it end.  Honeybee and Dimples had good appointments yesterday and we had a decent drive home.  With the two little boys along for the ride, it was a little more challenging than usual, but they did pretty well.

This week’s Tuesday Topic is from Tami who wrote:

We added two children to our family last October, making us a family of six. The newly adopted kids are now the oldest and the youngest in our “birth order”. I’d love to hear how others have helped their children adjust to the new place they hold in the family. Early on our daughter (age 8), who had been the youngest, had a hard time adjusting to her new younger brother (age 4). Now that we are almost a year in we are seeing stress on our son (age10) who had previously been the oldest. He is having a hard time and feels “displaced” by his new 11 year old sister.  Any tips or advice would be appreciated!

Please share your thoughts with Tami about how she might be able to help her children adjust to the changes in family birth order.  Don’t be shy! Remember that the words you offer may be just what Tami most needs to hear.

I’ll hold your comments until this Friday and share them all at once.

I have so much I hope to write about just as soon as I get suitcases unpacked, laundry going, food in the house, school started…and on and on it goes.


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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.


  1. Jane
    September 8, 2010

    I like to remind my previously oldest son that he may no longer be the oldest, but he is still my first child, and will always hold a special place in my heart. Each child has a special place, and if you think about it creatively, you can find fun ways to remind them of their unique position in the family, even if it is a different place than it used to be. Sharing status as well as everything else (attention, clothes, toys, "stuff" isn't easy, and I think all kids struggle with it to some degree, especially with their new siblings, but I think it teaches them great lessons and character in the long run. Kids often go through times when they need extra reassurance, but once they receive some consistent reminders of your love things get better before long.

  2. sandee
    September 8, 2010

    I too adopted out of birth order. I have two “home grown” sons and my daughter adopted 3 years ago….that were all set, in order. 12 (son) almost 10(son) 7 (daughter). This summer, we finally completed our adoption (2 1/2 years in the process) of another daughter. Our referral was for a 6 year old (2 years ago)…who would be an 8 year old when we brought her home. I felt good that my two sons, would still be the oldest and my “baby of the family” would remain the baby.

    But, as it turns out, our new daughter is actually 11. (could be 12, but we are going with 11) even though her paperwork says 8.

    And it has been challenging. For my oldest son, they are close enough in age, that they battle for leadership at home. The fact that they are in the same school, but several grades apart (he is in 7th and she is in 4) really helps. He is still, for all intents and purposes the oldest. My middle son, though, is the one with the challenges. They are in the same class, and she is clearly older…but being in the same grade, he treats her as a peer, IF he interacts with her at all.

    His typical method of dealing with this situation is ignore her, or fight with her. 🙁 So I guess this is not a reallybig insight into answers. I can tell you the biggest help we are experiencing at the moment with the sibling fighting is putting into practice some of the principles in Instructing a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp. I am focusing on each child’s heart response regardless of the circumstance and it is the only way to sort out the challenge for us. Sharing the concept of letting go of supposed (or familiar) “rights” as the oldest, (or second oldest) and trying to guide their hearts to Jesus for grace has been our focus of late.

    So I guess, I am open to hear others ideas and tips too…since this is all so new for us.

  3. Jen
    September 8, 2010

    We've adopted twice. The first time, a sibling group of 3 and the second time, a sibling group of 6. We also have one biological child. Our birthorders are ALL out of order. LOL!

    Basically, we ended up with THREE firstborns (all from different biological families – one being our own) who are close in age. Our fb bio. son is also about 1 yr. younger than his adopted fb sister. One thing I remember reading (and have found to be true) is that their chronological age isn't necessarily their "actual" age (in how they act, feel, think, etc. . . ). Sometimes (often) this means that a younger sibling is afforded an opportunity or privilege that an older sib. just isn't ready for. And, that is O.K.

    It would breed resentment in our son if we didn't let him do what he is ready for (and healthy for enough emotionally) just b/c his older sister isn't ready for it (b/c she is not regulated, not attached, or not self-controlled enough yet).

    It is the same with the littles (we also have 3 "babies"). We try to give each one what they need at the time.

    VERY OFTEN, if we step back and look at the age our child is acting, which is almost always younger , and we parent them from where they are (as opposed to the age the papers say they are), things go better and there is more peace.

    For example, we have a 7 yr. old who we adopted 3 years ago who is totally healed and attached and functions like an 8 or 9 year old in many ways. We also have a 7 year old who we just adopted this year who is still not trusting us and still trying to do it on her own. For a while we had them sharing a room b/c they were the same age, but it ended up being MUCH better to put our "little" 7 yr. old in with her 4 year old sib since they are both really preschoolers at heart, and put our "big" 7 yr. old w/ her 10 yr. old sibling. Much more peace!

    We often say – Age doesn't really matter. . . it is a matter of maturity and being ready. It is totally o.k. if you aren't ready yet and someone else is. (Mom and Dad decide when this is, btw.)

    One thing that helps is our little motto "different things for different kids at different times." and "Fair does not mean equal. . . we give each child what they NEED, not what they or anyone else thinks they should get based on their biological age."

  4. Kristen Pajama Mama
    September 9, 2010

    nothing to add, but i look forward to the responses! 🙂

  5. Michele
    September 9, 2010

    Our families first adoption has turned out to be our hardest so far. We were not told her correct birth date and the daughter we brought home turned out to be not our middle child but the oldest of those living at home. Three years later this still causes some issues. Our oldest bio at home is a real first born leader and there was no way she was giving up her spot. We started calling her our "alpha" and not referring to age. Our adopted daughter is far behind in maturity of even her younger siblings so it usually works for us. There are times when our adopted daughter brings up the fact that she is actually older and we all politely acknowledge her comment and try and move on in the conversation. If she persists because she wants a privileged that has been granted to her "younger" sibling we discuss that everyone gets privileges based upon behavior not on birth dates.


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