Mine is a blended family. Our family grew through birth and adoption, and I feel lucky, really lucky, to have had the opportunity to have both biological and adopted children. Families with both adopted and birth children work. Certainly this has been my experience, but it is also supported by research. Although many factors can influence the adjustment of birth and adopted children, including personality, age at adoption, prior life experiences, and parental attitudes, research has shown that combining children through birth and adoption does not adversely affect either (Brodzinsky and Brodzinsky 1992; Boer et al. 1994). I talk about the research more in my book, if you are interested.
But adoption forces your birth kids to face issues that other children might not have to. We adopted across racial lines so my older kids are more sensitive to racial comments, even though we have faced very few. But the biggest prejudice my older kids have faced is the subtle prejudice against adoption. The one that gets them the most is the assumption that they are less connected, somehow less siblings, because one is adopted.
Once, my eldest came home from high school absolutely furious because someone had questioned whether her sister was indeed her “real” sister. I tried to use it as an opportunity to talk with her about how to educate people about adoption without having an argument, since I believe most negative comments are based in ignorance. As we talked, the real fuel behind her anger finally came out. She started to cry and said, “But what if someone says that to L one day. I’d just want to kill them!”
I understood exactly how she felt. We fantasized about what we’d like to do to anyone who would say something that would ever make L feel less like a member of our family. As our conversation degenerated into silliness, we toyed with, but eventually and with great reluctance ruled out boiling in oil, kicking in the groin, and the very satisfying sounding spitting in the offender’s face after we had eaten anchovies and onions. Finally, we hit upon the perfect punishment: stuffing the offending mouth with jalapeños and duct taping it shut. Talk about punishment fitting the crime.
Harmony reigned the rest of the evening as my eldest tried especially hard to be nice to her sometimes annoying little sister. The next morning, I knew things were back to normal when I heard the eldest yelling, “L, where’s my CD? I told you to stay out of my room! Mom, why can’t you make her stay out? She’s always getting into my stuff!!”
They sure sounds like real sisters to me.
Here are some resources to help you along the way:
- Books to Prepare Children for the Adoption of a Sibling
- Resources for Blended Families – Combining kids by birth and adoption
- Video with Yours Truly on Tips for Combining Kids by Birth and Adoption
- Wise Up Power book– helping kids (bio and adopted) cope with questions
Image credit: Sarajea