There are many ways to build a family. Children often join their families by birth, IVF, surrogacy, various types of adoption, and a variety of other methods — and many parents use a combination of these methods to grow their families.
If you are raising biological and adopted children in your home, you may wonder how to meet each child’s unique needs while making them all feel equally loved and welcome in your family. While all children have the same basic needs for a safe, loving and harmonious home, there are some guidelines to keep in mind as you add to your family.
- Prepare your children for a new sibling – Whether your older children were adopted or biological, and whether you are giving birth or adopting their younger sibling, it is always important to prepare everyone in your family for a new member. Regardless of how your family is formed, older children sometimes feel insecure or jealous when a new child joins the family. Assure your child that you have enough love and attention to go around, and involve them in your family’s preparation for a new child, whether it’s picking out toys for the new child or drawing pictures to welcome him or her to your family.
- Consider birth order – Children naturally develop their own roles in the family, due in part to the order in which they were born. Parents who are considering adopting an older child should pay special attention to the displacement of their oldest child and consider their children’s feelings and personalities before adopting out of birth order.
- Explain your new child’s needs – When a new child enters a family, parents’ time and attention must be divided among all of their children. New babies often require extra care, and older children adopted from the foster system may have special needs, difficult behaviors or just need extra help adjusting to your family. Let your older children know that while they may not receive as much one-on-one attention as they did in the past, you will always be there when they need you.
- Avoid favoritism – Do not give any child special treatment. Divide chores fairly, and praise and discipline all children in a consistent way. Also be aware of displays of favoritism from extended family members. If a family member seems to be favoring one child over another, share your observations with them, educate them about adoption and ask that they treat all members of your family fairly.
- Address physical and cultural differences – Children who are not genetically related to their parents or siblings often do not resemble their families. Physical and cultural differences can especially be emphasized in transracial adoptive families. Teach all of your children about adoption and diversity, and remind them that these differences are beautiful and something to be celebrated. If your adopted child comes from a different cultural background, celebrate their heritage and incorporate those traditions into your family celebrations.
- Expect a normal sibling relationship – While it may initially take some adjustment, most adopted and biological children will have no problem getting along. Soon, your children will develop deep bonds — and likely, the expected sibling rivalry. Allow your children to develop their own special relationships, complete with all of the normal joys and challenges of growing up with siblings.
- When in doubt, consult an expert – If your children are having trouble adjusting to your new family dynamic, or if you notice significant changes in a child’s behavior or personality, it may be time to consult a professional. Consider reaching out to a family counselor or adoption professional for additional help.
As parents, the most important thing you can do for your children when blending your family is to set the tone. Make it clear through your actions that you don’t see your children as “adopted” or “biological” — they are simply your children. Your children will pick up on your attitudes, follow your lead, and the blend will happen naturally.
Resources for Blended Families
There are many additional resources with information about parenting both adopted and biological children together: