Families are created in all kinds of ways. There are many families today that are formed by birth, surrogacy, adoption, second marriages, and a blend of these methods. These dynamics are all personal and unique to each family. As anyone in the adoption community could tell you: Families are created through love, not DNA.
Whether you are thinking of adopting a child after having had biological children, or you are expecting a biological child after adopting, you may be concerned with how your family will form a cohesive unit. . Will there be feelings of jealousy or animosity? Or, will they get along? These are all common concerns, as many parents wonder about the effects of adoption on biological siblings.
The good news is that, with some support, guidance, and plenty of preparation – you can successfully grow your family with adopted and biological children in the same household.
Before you take this next step in your life, you may want to learn more about the journey ahead. We hope this guide can help you understand what to expect when raising adopted and biological children together. We will share the challenges that may arise, and share tips to help you build lifelong bonds between your children that will last a lifetime.
Do Parents Favor Their Biological Children?
For years, scientists have speculated whether parents favor their biological children over children they adopted. This theory is known as the Kin Selection Theory. Under this theory, parents would also have less favorable perceptions of the personality, intellect, and other behavioral traits of their adopted children as compared with their blood-related kids. This theory, however, has been challenged in recent years.
In 2015, the online journal Evolution and Human Behavior conducted a study to examine this theory. The researchers compared data of 135 pairs of “virtual twins” – biological and adopted siblings close in age. They found that parents scored both adopted and biological children similarly when it came to positive traits.
How Do the Children Feel About It?
Scientists have also examined how adopted and biological children in the same household feel about their siblings. In 2015, the National Library of Medicine shared the results of its research, finding that siblings in blended, adoptive and biological families formed better bonds and lifelong relationships with one another when the adoption had more openness and communication.
The research also found that siblings’ relationships may be influenced by one another’s happiness with the adoption itself. According to the study, “When one sibling feels positively about their adoption, it is likely that other adopted siblings would experience similar feelings – especially if these siblings also report greater closeness and involvement in one another’s lives.”
What Parents Can Do to Help Connect Siblings
It goes without saying that you will love all of your children. Regardless of your children’s sibling arrangement, you can have a happy home that is full of love and harmony. Sibling rivalry and bickering is almost guaranteed from time-to-time, but overall – your children should be able to co-exist and feel comfortable around one another, regardless of their adoption or biological status. Here are some tips that may help you – and your children – as you navigate this parenting journey with your blended family.
- Consider both children’s feelings. Your adopted child may, at times, feel inferior to your biological child, especially if they were older when adopted. Consider their feelings and try to be sensitive to their emotions. The same may be true for your biological child, especially when your adopted child gets attention for the adoption being finalized or moments of discussion surrounding the adoption story. Check in with both children often to make sure they feel seen and heard. Validating a child’s emotions is important, as it reinforces that unconditional love you feel for them and helps build trust.
- Discuss adoption openly and often. Explaining adoption to your biological child(ren) can feel overwhelming at first, but it is an important step in the preparation process. Make sure your biological child understands what adoption is, how it works, and why it is a positive choice for your growing family. There are many books and other resources to help you explain the adoption or your desire to adopt another child. Make sure to have open and honest discussions that are age-appropriate for your child(ren).
- Consider each child’s individual needs. When you adopt a child, you may need to show a bit more love and attention to that child at home. Whether they are older and have special developmental or medical needs, or they are a newborn baby that needs constant care, it is important to continue nourishing that child.
Parents of multiple children need to do a bit of juggling, ensuring their biological child(ren) also have their needs met, as well. Your biological child(ren) will continue to need care and the assurance that they are loved and cherished. If your biological child is older, they may need more active play time. Try to set time aside for their activities, such as playdates with friends or reading time one-on-one. Both children are important to the family dynamic, and the daily care and reminders will help them feel that as they adjust to the new arrangement.
- Avoid playing favorites. As your children grow, it is important to avoid giving one child special treatment that the other does not receive. Split up household chores fairly and try to keep discipline consistent with both children. While each child has individual needs, they can build resentment if they feel their sibling is being praised more frequently or offered more rewards.
- Acknowledge physical and cultural differences. Most adopted children do not look like their parents and siblings. Whether your adopted child is of a different race or ethnicity than the rest of your family or just looks much different, it is important to acknowledge this difference in appearance. It is important to recognize there are differences and, more importantly, to celebrate them, as well. Celebrate your adopted child’s ethnic background and make sure the whole family learns about it and honors it, too.
- Expect typical sibling relationships. There is an adjustment period for all blended families, just as there is with the addition of a new sibling in any family. After a bit of time, your children should develop normal sibling bonds. Give your children the freedom to develop their relationships on their own – even if there is some bickering along the way – as this will help them feel comfortable to express themselves around one another and adjust to life with their new sibling.
- Reach out for help, as needed. If your children are having trouble adjusting to the new family dynamic, it may be helpful to reach out to a professional for support. Consider contacting a family counselor or adoption professional who can help.
You can help set the tone and make it clear through your love, positive discipline, and everyday actions that your children are all loved equally, and that everyone plays an important role in the home. An adoption agency, such as Adoptions With Love, can help offer more advice and guidance throughout this adjustment process, if needed.
Interested in Learning More About Adoption?
If you would like to learn even more about adopting a child after having a biological child, and the effects this could have on siblings, contact Adoptions With Love. We can help you grow your family with adoption and offer you guidance with your biological child(ren) along the way. Call us today at 1-800-722-7731 or contact us online.
For more information, you may also download our free eBook, “Adopting a Baby After You Have Children: A Guide for Families.”