Families are composed of many connections. The parent-child relationship may be on the front of your mind, especially if you are a hopeful parent considering adoption. But, as time goes on, you may come to see another connection as equally foundational to the makeup of your family: that found between siblings.

Healthy Relationships between Bio and Adopted Siblings

Best friends, bitter enemies, partners in crime, teammates and more — siblings shape each other. They can be a constant companion and the person who knows you better than anyone.

Sibling relationships can also be a challenge, as anyone with a brother or sister is well aware. And, when it comes to the relationship between a child who was adopted and a biological child, those challenges may present unique obstacles. When you’re a parent, you may be searching for the best ways to meet each child’s unique needs, while also ensuring your children know they are equally loved.

While the relationships between adopted and biological children can be challenging, they can also be beautiful. Here are four things to consider on National Siblings Day if you are currently a parent or are considering adoption.

Preparation is Key

Change is hard for everyone. It’s especially challenging for children.

Are you preparing to grow your family through adoption or biologically? Either way, it’s important to take steps to prepare your child for this big change. While approaches to this vary, there are several commonly recommended actions you can take:

  • Always use positive framing.
  • Explain that a new sibling means more love for everyone.
  • Take special time to reinforce your relationship with your child, as they will likely develop feelings of jealousy.
  • To the extent it is possible, involve your child in preparation (such as decorating the nursery or picking out new baby toys).

Finally, begin telling the story of your child’s new sibling long before they arrive.

Humans understand the world through narrative. Help your child form a healthy narrative early in the process, whether that’s pregnancy or adoption. This practice of storytelling allows you to influence their views toward their new siblings with truths such as:

  • Family is all about love.
  • This is going to be a great thing.
  • We will always love you both.

Consider Birth Order

Psychological research has shown that children naturally develop rules about social order based on who is oldest. This is not a bad thing. It’s also not connected to biology — simply age.

What does that mean? It doesn’t necessarily matter if you adopt or have a child biologically first. What matters is that you do not disrupt the birth order once it has been established. It can be very challenging for a child to go from being the oldest to having an older sibling. It’s not impossible, but it is important to think about the potential effects of changing the birth order.

Acknowledge Uniqueness

Every child is different. You won’t find a parenting guide that tells you to treat your children as if they are carbon copies of each other. If one child is into sports, you encourage that. If the other wants to dance, you dance with them.

While it is a more significant difference than those examples, you should always acknowledge and celebrate your child’s adoption story. To ignore this crucial part of their journey to treat them “equally” as biological children can create harm in several ways.

First, it assumes that being adopted is “lesser” than coming into a family biologically.  By establishing the biological child’s journey as the status quo, you demote adoption to a less desirable position. Instead, you can choose to tell each story with equal enthusiasm and positivity. Each is different, yet special. 

Second, it leaves a child who came home through adoption with a big gap in their story. If you don’t help them fill this gap at a young age, they’ll do it on their own. Making adoption taboo has been shown to lead to negative feelings about adoption and an overall negative perception of self as a child grows up.

Beyond the adoption story, it’s important for transracial families to talk openly about — and celebrate — physical differences. If you adopted internationally, it can be a good thing to celebrate cultural differences, too.

The goal is to establish that differences are not bad. Rather, they are worth celebrating.

Perfection Isn’t the Goal

Sibling rivalry is normal. Fights happen. It’s okay if your children are not always the best of friends, because no siblings always get along.

Seasons come and go. While no parent will simply accept the way things are when their children are not being kind to each other, it’s important to acknowledge that this is normal and it will pass.

Times of resentment and frustration are actually great opportunities to help your children learn to express their feelings and resolve conflict. If you can accept that perfection is impossible, then these moments turn from crisis to opportunity. Children who develop the ability to deal with adversity at a young age are more likely to maintain a healthy relationship, and strong sibling bonds have been shown to have lifelong benefits.

Learn More about Adoption

Are you considering adoption for your family? If you’re reading this, then you are already taking a proactive step by educating yourself about this journey. To learn more about adopting with American Adoptions, please contact us at any time.