Tuesday's Answers: Preparing the Family for a New Older Sibling


I want to deeply thank everyone who contributed their answers to Dianne’s question, which was (in part):

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?

I am going to try a new format for the answers to Tuesday Topics in order to avoid the post getting so long that you all stop reading before you get to the bottom. I am posting excerpts from each of the comments. The full comment can be found in the Comments Section of the original Tuesday Topic, and the follow-up post. I am also considering posting a question one Tuesday followed by the answers the next Tuesday. This will allow more time for people to respond. Please give me feedback about both of these changes to help me make my blog as helpful as possible.

Here are excerpts of your answers:

Blogger Marissa said…

…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..

…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.

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Blogger Jennifer said…

…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. …
…You also need to make sure you spend a lot of special mommy and daddy time with your little girl, since she will really miss that once the family dynamics are changed.

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Blogger Ajay said…

…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…

…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, too afraid to share the pain of abuse or disruption?

Blogger Jillian and Crew said…

This is a hard one because you almost feel “exposed” by answering it.
Things we did in prep for our older boys coming into
our home while having 2 younger girls already at home:
1) baby monitors in every room
2) no closed door policy
3) Teach about privacy and safe touching from DAY ONE.
4) Boys bathroom and girls bathrooms are seperate and they are NEVER allowed to use each others.
5) one person in the bathroom at a time-even with double sinks
6) we added bells to the doors(jingle bells, out of reach)
7) all kids ask permission to go to the bathroom, not so we can say NO, so we can KNOW where they went.
8) motion detector in a specific area of the house as needed at night
9) traveling safety deemed nec…such as any of the above to make a hotel room safe.

So far, so good. We have not had any sexual issues come up-we have dealt with some light violence that is mainly targeted at the adopted sibling and the female parent.

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Blogger christall said…

As a person with a background in Family Therapy I *think* I did a fair job of preparing my daughter here at home for the changes that would come when bringing Ava home. Having said that, we were not prepared – and truthfully, I don’t think you can ever really *be* prepared for how things will work out…

… I will continue to work on communicating with both girls – so that if something does happen they feel safe coming to me with it.

…Nobody can predict if/when something bad will happen and we can’t live our lives afraid of that. If you are hearing the call to adoption, and are specifically hearing the call to adopt an older child – I hope you listen. Then do the very best job you can to prepare yourself and your children. Truly – that is the best you can do. (in my opinion)

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Blogger Mamita J said

…First of all, you need to be prepared, or at least have some idea of what you might be facing, and some idea of how you would handle it. Read the hard books. Lisa has a list on one of her posts. Read them, and think to yourself, “What if?” “How would I handle this?”
Second, prepare the kids at home for the possibility of an unpleasant homecoming….It is very traumatizing to witness what kids from hard places do. It causes trauma in your birth kids. Then, all those parenting skills used for the hard kids are needed on your soft kids. I hope that makes sense.
Third, prepare your home. Your new child needs a very “little world”. Do not start with a bedroom full of stuff (or a house full of stuff). Two outfits that are accessible … You can add stuff as your child begins to regulate. I would not allow a new older kid to share a room with a younger sibling until I had a firm understanding of the trauma you are dealing with….

Jon and Jamie said…

…We did monitor the kids very closely for a long period, as our adopted daughter is much bigger and stronger than her older sister, so this was a concern to me, but never an issue, I was the target of the anger and angst, not the other kids(my son hated me for a while too)

… Having a place I knew my bio daughter could go was crucial to me, someone to take her if it got crazy or too much at home, and knowing that who I called would not question me, but come straight away, we never used this option but having the contingency was crucial for my peace of mind….

… Also I did not realize how long the process of intermingling the families could take, it seemed easy at first, but got harder a few months in when the honeymoon was over, so prepare to step back into battle again as time goes on…

Blogger Ann said…

1.) birth order becomes less important the more kids you have in the house

2.) there’s a reason most disruptions occur when adopting a child out of birth order

3.) it would be extremely important to know and have interacted A LOT with the age of the child you are adopting (ie elementary school teacher) if you have never parented a child that age. Also, I have to share that there were SO many times after we brought Vu home that I totally could not have imagined parenting him if we hadn’t already parented several kids and had lots of adoption education.

HOWEVER–having said all that 🙂 there are times where it is just meant to be!…

Don’t forget to check out the full comments in the Comments Section. I will post my answer to this question later this week. Thank you Dianne for presenting such a thought provoking Tuesday Topic. If you have a question you would like to ask
, please email it to me at: Thankfulmom[at]gmail[dot]com

I would like to end this post with something Julie, Mamita J, wrote:

Having said all that, if God is calling you to adopt an older child, and you have prayed about it and you are sure…run, don’t walk to the agency that you have thoroughly researched, and sign up. You will not find a more incredible picture of God’s redemptive plan. Hang on to your hat. It’s a wild ride, full of hope and despair, sacrifice and reward, grief and recovery. I wish all the best to you. God is bigger than your child’s pain.

Beautiful.

~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.

0 Comments

  1. Ann
    October 13, 2009

    I finally got on to post my answer and it is too late! Is this just the story of my life lately? LOL! I was going to say that 1.) birth order becomes less important the more kids you have in the house 2.) there's a reason most disruptions occur when adopting a child out of birth order and 3.) it would be extremely important to know and have interacted A LOT with the age of the child you are adopting (ie elementary school teacher) if you have never parented a child that age. Also, I have to share that there were SO many times after we brought Vu home that I totally could not have imagined parenting him if we hadn't already parented several kids and had lots of adoption education.

    HOWEVER–having said all that 🙂 there are times where it is just meant to be! If you feel your heart saying it is right and feel God leading you in that direction, do it! We almost weren't allowed to adopt our son because he is the exact same age as his brother and yet it has been a match made in heaven! Good luck–pray for God's guidance.

    Reply
  2. Laurel
    October 14, 2009

    I must respond to Ajay's comment:

    "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, too afraid to share the pain of abuse or disruption?"

    Yes … most families dealing with abuse/trauma/disruption are very afraid to speak out truthfully about what is happening in their homes. I have spoken openly on my blog this summer, about the CRISIS our family is walking through. The backlash for speaking publicly and truthfully is unbelievable (the gossip, the character malignment, the accusations, the loss of friendships … all VERY painful). Yet, at the same time, I am glad that I have spoken out about the difficulties of older child adoption. I have received numerous private emails from other moms walking through similar situations. They have all thanked me for my honesty, while they themselves don't feel that they can share their story with anyone (even in their own churches). Even in our church, we have been shunned. We have spoken about the unspeakable … no one wants to hear of such things, no one wants to believe such things, so our CRISIS is ignored and we feel completely rejected by those we thought would be our support.

    Do we regret adopting an older sibling group of 3? Not at all. Has it been difficult? Unbelievably. Would we encourage others to adopt older children. Absolutely. We know that the Lord led us to bring these children home. Now, we are praying for a new family for our oldest adopted child, who should never have been adopted out with his younger sisters.

    mama of 13
    holding on to Jesus,
    as we walk through our CRISIS

    Reply
  3. Dianne
    October 14, 2009

    My thanks to everyone for their replies.

    Reply
  4. Paul and DeeDee
    October 14, 2009

    Lisa,
    Just wanted to say that I am loving your Tuesday Topics! And I don't mind reading the lengthy posts, I so enjoy all of the wealth of information everyone is giving.

    DeeDee

    Reply

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