Tuesday Topics: Preparing the Family for a New Older Sibling

Honeybee’s first Sunday with her new sisters

Some great questions have been rolling in for our Tuesday Topics. Thank you to everyone who has participated in asking questions or sharing answers.

Dianne sent me a question that I expect will be very thought provoking for many of us. In fact, I’m not quite sure how I will answer it yet…I need to give it some thought. Please email your answers to me at:


Or, submit them as comments to this post. I will compile all of our thoughts and post them at the end of the week.

Here is Dianne’s question:

We are feeling led to adopt an “older” (ie – school aged) child into our family, which currently consists of myself, my husband and our 1.5 year old daughter, and would like to go into this decision with as much information and preparedness as possible. We know that older adopted children will not inherently cause unsafe situations for the younger ones, but want to still be prepared for this possibility, and are aware that the grief and trauma they may experience on their journey could manifest in ways that could create an unsafe situation for our younger daughter.

My question is: how have other families prepared to meet the needs of an older child coming into the family, and what have they done to be ready to also protect the best interests of younger children in the household? If they felt there was the potential that they could be creating a less safe situation for their younger child, are there specific ways that they prepared for this?

We love our daughter devotedly, and despite feeling strongly called to adopt an older sibling for her, feel conflicted when thinking about the potential that this could potentially put her in a risky situation.

If you have added an older child to your family, please take a moment to share from your experience. For some of us, that will probably mean reflecting on the things we wish we had done to make the transition better for our families and our new children.

If you have a question you would like to ask, please email it to me at:


Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and learning along with me about this incredibly complex journey.


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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. Marissa
    October 7, 2009

    Such a great question, and one not easy to answer.

    We brought home a 5-year-old when we had a 4-year-old and 1.5-year-old at home. Next year we are bringing home an 11-year-old and 9-year-old. One might say we are building our family backwards.

    I think there are two things that helped us. First, we had absolutely no expectation. We really appreciated the idea of "family age," an idea that suggests that you treat your adopted child as if they are the age they've been in your home. So if they've been in your home for 6 months, then your expectations of them are that of a 6 month old. We didn't keep this idea going forever, as after about 6 months it wasn't really necessary for our son. This got us through those first few months when you're getting to know your child and how they operate.

    Second, we imagined the worst and planned for it. We arranged our home in such a way that meant that at all hours of the day we could monitor and protect all children. It was a daunting task at times but once again, it doesn't last forever.

    In the long term I've had to remember one thing, all kids fight. All kids hurt each other at some point. I've found that the key is really getting to know your child so that when they make a mistake, their motivations can be better understood.

    Older child adoption has been such an incredible blessing to our family. Our oldest son makes our family dynamic just "sing."

  2. Jennifer
    October 7, 2009

    We have just adopted two older boys, ages 10 and 4, in addition to our biological kids, ages 5 and 2. We have only had them for about a month so we are still learning how to protect our little ones. This has been really hard on our bio. kids since the other boys behavior causes alot of stress in the house.
    We have no idea what has happened in our adopted kids past, so we really don't know what they are capable of. I know alot of parents have an open door policy concerning bedrooms, but we have taken it one step farther. None of our children are allowed to go into the rooms of other children. And not just for safety sake. When we brought home our adopted boys they had no concept of items belonging to someone else and were always taking Emily and Isaac's toys. That especially hard on Isaac, who is two. Now we keep their favorite toys in their rooms and that way no one else can play with them.
    You also need to make sure you spend alot of special mommy and daddy time with your little girl, since she will really miss that once the family dynamics are changed.

  3. Ajay
    October 9, 2009

    I'm writing in because Lisa was mentioning that there weren't a lot of posts answering this topic. I have been really looking forward to hearing the responses as we too are considering an older sibling adoption(6,7,8 range)while having a 3 year old (bio) daughter and 1.5 year old (Ethiopian) son in our home.
    We dove in excitedly to begin the process of research and talking with people about it only to find out that most are discouraging against it. After speaking with a 26 year adoption social worker for a major agency she came out and said that she doesn't understand why people would put their young children at risk after seeing a 50% disruption rate internationally and domestically among those adoption older children with young children at home. She would only recommend it to families who would place the older children as the youngest although she said that she sees as many issues with preschool aged children. We spoke a long time over the phone and I wanted to be objective in hearing her thoughts and wisdom of experience, however I was quite discouraged after the conversation and not understanding as of course it struck me personally to hear someone come against something we've been planning on doing. I am going to continue to talk and research which is why I'd love to hear others share their experiences, easy or challenging. No parent would ever want to put their child at risk…of course! And most of the stories I hear from others are outstandingly positive. Is it just that those in that 50% that she shared of are keeping the hard challenges to themselves, to afraid to share the pain of abuse or disruption? We're realizing we have a lot more research to do and and even greater amount of praying to do as we try to make the best decision for our family. Each family is different and above all else we need to remember God is going to give us what we need to do the things He asks of us. Thanks for those who have shared…I'd love to hear more answers too!


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