There are numerous aspects to consider when adopting. Adoption can be like one big puzzle where the correct pieces are needed to create a whole picture. This puzzle would entail the process itself, the finances, the timing, the emotions, the preparation of the home, how many children, domestic, foreign, special needs children, and even the unknown. With many questions, there are certainly answers that can greatly assist you if you are currently on the path of adopting or in the initial stages of starting the process of adopting. One significant piece of the puzzle is sibling adoptions and how each one will bring a distinct outlook, past, struggles, and future. These pieces are attached and cannot be ignored.
The outlook of one sibling can be very different than his or her brother or sister. The outlook is the attitude or views, even desires, each one possesses. One child may have a positive and hopeful outlook while another may feel that he is not worthy or accepted within his new family. One sibling could have been ignored while the other was abused. Or even one had to take care of the other siblings and had the pressure of taking on the role of a parent even though she may still be in elementary school. The outlook of the “parent-child” is to protect, and thus added pressure is on that child to grow up faster instead of just being a child. One may be depressed while the other may be happy go lucky. It is necessary to become aware as best as you can the role of each child prior to adopting, and it may help to explain his outlook once you adopt.
The second piece is the struggles of each child. When we fostered our three precious children who we eventually adopted, they came to live with us at 4, 7, and 10 years old. Each one of them had a degree of struggles that they had with them. The struggles can include what was witnessed, what occurred, and what was the outcome. One may not know how to overcome the struggle, while another has no recollection and thus there is no real struggle. Now, of course, this does not make them bad, but it does make them fragile and broken. We, as parents, must be a guide to mend and mold them. As a parent, you will be in the dark about certain struggles. At times your kids will reveal something they feel comfortable in sharing when you may least expect it. This piece of their struggles can very much impact their outlook.
The third piece is the past. The past can be an anchor, or it can be a ship that has been a joyous adventure while growing up. This applies to all of us. So how does the past apply with adopted siblings? Well, in our case, two of our children wanted their first names changed, while our oldest did not. Why was that? Simply because they wanted to break away from the past and be associated with the present. Our oldest did not want to change her name because she was proud of it and wanted to honor her family. That too is okay. Four years ago, I took my two sons on a father-son vacation. I mentioned to my oldest son if he wanted to visit the area near where he was born as our adventure. My then 13-year-old said, “Dad, that is not me anymore. I don’t want to go.” He recognized that his old self was no longer important, and he wanted a new life with a new name. Though the past is more than changing the first and last name, it is a major part of the puzzle that connects with the struggles and outcomes.
Finally, the future. The future is a major piece of the puzzle that is determinative as a result of the past, struggles, and outlook. Adopted siblings sometimes will be in a competition with one another as to who is the best. They also may feel that they have to prove something because they were adopted. Competition amongst siblings is common and expected, yet with adopted siblings, it can be added pressure to prove to the outside world as well as to themselves that they are not defective but whole. The drive and determination to be successful, though understandable, can be harmful. As parents, we must guide and counsel our children to focus on productive outcomes and not on self-destructive behaviors. This even translates when they become adults. The future is inexplicably attached to the past, the struggles, and the outcome.
My intention is not to scare any prospective parent to shy away from adopting siblings. It is offering a small sample of what you may encounter. I do encourage that you solicit help when needed. Counseling, seeking spiritual help, speaking with other adopted parents in person or online, or even joining a group in your community is recommended. We all need tools when we adopt. When given those tools, we must use them. Adopting siblings is another piece of the puzzle of what makes a family. The pieces are not always in front of you, but the more you have the easier it is for all. You must be patient, compassionate, knowledgeable, and pliable with your children. Most of all, remember that—like a puzzle—each piece can match, and each one contains an answer.
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