We have seven kids, four bio and three adopted. Our three children whom we have adopted are older kiddos with special needs. We’ve been home for only three months with our newest child….. so we are pretty much hands on at the moment.
I have compiled a list of different things we did to help ease the transition for siblings who soon will have a new brother or sister.
1. Strategically place pictures of your new child around the house before he or she comes home. Take a family photo shortly after your new child comes home and hang it in a prominent place in your home.
2. Have your children participate in decorating and setting up their new sibling’s room.
3. Do fundraisers together! Have siblings help with a meal fundraiser, creating a t-shirt, helping at a garage sale, etc. All hands on deck!
4. Read books together about the country your new child is from, about adoption, etc.
5. Hang up Chinese/English words around the house.
6. Make a family book such as a photo album. This can be homemade or created on a photo book site. Have each family member write a note to go with their picture. This can be taken on the adoption trip to share with the new child. This is a wonderful gift for the new child to treasure.
7. Share pictures and updates with the siblings during the long adoption process.
8. Let siblings see and touch items purchased for their new brother or sister. Let them help pick out something or make something for their new sibling.
9. Discuss how things will be different, even at the family table. Our kids made a paper life-size model of one our new children and put “him” in a chair at the table while we waited to bring him home.
10. Family name discussion — we had a family discussion with our third adoption as to what his name should be. We pray about each name, but we thought it would be fun to see what the siblings would come up with. We had lots of good suggestions and did veto the names of the one reading off his football cards. Sorry, no Joe Flacco. It was a lot of fun! I wrote down everyone’s ideas and hope this will be a fun memory to give to our adopted son.
In China and Once Home:
11. Buy matching clothing for sibling(s) and newly adopted child such as a t-shirt. Have coordinating clothing while in-country… it’s kind of fun.
12. Buys gifts for your new child to give to his or her siblings.
13. Buy chopsticks in China. It’s a fun way to bond. It was funny when our new child would prefer the fork and our American born child the chopsticks.
14. Make sure to guard one-on-one time with the sibling and the parent – a challenge with the busy days of the adoption process and the hands-on time when your new child comes home.
15. Go on a mini vacation – family outing – play together. Get away from the phones, the distractions, and go swimming or to the park or a weekend getaway together as a family to spend uninterrupted time together.
16. Let the kids know that their new sibling is watching them, wanting to copy what they are doing. Some kids really like this role of teaching and responsibility. This is very helpful for bonding.
17. Look for and encourage one-on-one sibling time. The siblings can play a game one-on-one with their new sibling: Uno, Candy Land, Sorry, XBox, outdoor sports, etc. This is a great way to learn new words together.
18. Have a family game time… the above mentioned games and we have also liked Hi-Ho Cherrio, Tenzi, and other simple games that do not require a lot of language. Some adopted children are simply learning how to win or lose a game and starting with simple games seems to be easier for all to enjoy.
19. Make a DVD of the adoption and include some post adopt pics with all the family. Watching this together with popcorn is a really fun family activity!
20. Give personal space for all the children, putting their name in their room or space is helpful. Using wooden letters, etc — any name can be part of the décor. This makes a kid feel special and also helps your new child learn his or her new name.
21. Nicknames used affectionately help build sibling relationships with each other. “Code words” can be a fun way to talk with each other and help with sibling bonding.
22. Remind siblings that it takes time to adjust to the “new normal”. Everything is new to the new child. Reminding siblings of this helps them when frustrations set in.
23. Patience. Remind siblings to be patient. Somethings will have to be taught over and over and over. Going places will take longer. And sharing may be a new concept for the new sibling…. patience is a must!
24. Remind your children that, no matter the age, having a new sibling is like having a new baby in the house. The new child will need a lot of attention from mom and dad especially at first. There are so many new experiences and situations that require mom and dad to help the child navigate and learn.
25. Older siblings could take the new sibling out on special outing such as getting an ice cream together.
26. Music – piano, guitar, youtube, etc. – sing and play songs together. Try a few in your new child’s language and English. Dance and have fun together.
Before, During and After:
27. As much as possible, keep routine during the adoption process and post adoption. This provides much needed security and stability for everyone in all the changes.
28. Pray together as a family for the adoption: before, during and after.
29. Celebrate sibling events during the adoption process and post adoption…. concerts, sporting events, class parties, birthdays, etc. Life is incredibly busy, but keep these celebrations because every sibling needs to know their parents love and support for them no matter what. Being present speaks volumes.
30. Give each child a Bible verse that is special for them. Pray this verse over them all their lives.
Siblings often know how to push one another buttons, right? But they also know the thoughts and dreams of those they share the dinner table with. They play together, laugh together, fight together, learn together, and grow together. Our adopted children learn how to relate to their new mom and dad by watching their brothers and sisters. They now have a family who will love and support them all their lives…. even after mom and dad are gone.
I’m looking forward to sitting around our dinner table about ten to fifteen years from now reminiscing and listening to all the adventures our children recall together. God knew they needed each other…. they know they will need each other throughout their lives.
With a heart full of thanks, I look around at each face…. and see a gift from God.
– guest post by Kathryn