Preparing Children Already in the Home for an Adoption

Adding a child to your family changes the dynamics for everyone, so it is especially important for preparing children who are already in the home for an adoption.  We talked with Gail Heaton, the biological mother to five children and an adoptive mother to twins. She is a Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) practitioner and Circle of Security Parenting facilitator. She founded Suddenly Siblings™ to help parents prepare their children already in the home when a family adopts or fosters.   We also talked with Molly Heaton, an adult resident sibling, and a big sister for 15 years to Russian-born, orphanage-raised, twin adoptive brothers with special needs due to early trauma.

Hit the Highlights
  • Preparation differs by the type of adoption and age of the resident children.
  • Helping all kids understand the meaning of adoption.
  • Domestic Infant Adoption
    • Becoming a big brother or sister.
    • Understanding how families can be created, which includes adoption.
  • Foster Care and International Adoption
    • If starting as a foster child, an understanding of what fostering means
    • Preparing children for the wait and unknown
    • Preparation for changes: language, food issues, behavior, cocooning, increase in routines
    • Preparation for challenging behaviors
    • Loss of personal space, sharing time, loss of parental attention
  • Secondary Traumatic Stress
  • Whose decision was it to adopt anyway? Don’t let children assume that it was their decision.
  • Helping children in the home develop empathy for what new child is experiencing.
    • How much of your new child’s story should you share with the existing kids.
  • Preparing children already in the home for adoption and for differing rules, expectations, and discipline.
  • Perceptions of favoritism and outright favoritism.
  • Resident kids may feel like they have to be perfect to not add more burden and work onto their parents. Or they may act out to get attention.
  • Children already in the home are a great source for helping the new child adjust but how can we do this without putting pressure on resident kids.
  • Positives for children already in the home from adoption.
  • Parenting Tips For helping siblings when adding a new child to the family through adoption. How to create a home that honors and supports both resident kids and newly adopted or fostered children:
    • Create an environment where all children can express their needs and frustrations
    • Continuing to check in with resident children
    • Can you find another person to spend extra time with your resident child and be a sounding board?
    • Set expectations of what they are responsible for and not responsible for.
    • Normalize their resentment -they aren’t a bad sibling because they felt that way.
    • While simplifying and slowing down your life, keep activities that are important to children already in the home.
    • Get extra help, if at all possible, to free you up to be able to spend time with all kids for the 6 months.
    • Freeze meals in advance and have a rotation of easy to fix meals.
  • Suddenly Siblings: Adventure in Fostering & Adoption. Over 25 interactive lessons to do with your child to prepare them for being a sibling to a child from a trauma background. The activities/lessons walk the resident child through learning about their new sibling and their special need or early trauma, coping with the changes in family dynamics, and how to build an empowered home. Each activity has a parent section as well.

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Music credit: Michael Ashworth

Photo credit: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels