Adoption: How did you prepare your other children?

This week’s adoption question is about adopting when you already have children.  How did you prepare your other children for a new brother or sister?  Does it differ from preparing a child for a sibling born into the family? How?  Did you feel your child was well prepared for the change? What turned out to be most helpful?



  1. A little bit of history about my family. Living at home we had a 14 year old son and a 23 month old son. Both knew we were adopting but none of us knew when, where, or who for that matter. When we received the call to go and pick up our baby girl in Texas we had less than 12 hours to get ready, make arrangements, and get on the next available flight to meet our Grace. A friend of mine told me to take the entire family. I was worried about leaving my youngest child because he had never been away from either one his parents for more than a few hours. We knew the stay in Texas would be around a week. It was the best advice ever! My youngest didn’t feel like we abandoned him and came back with a stranger. He loved the adventure of the plane ride and was so excited to see his new sister. My 14 year old son enjoyed being in Houston, eating bbq food every night, and yes meeting his baby sister as well. What was amazing and a blessing in disguise was how we all bonded. All five of us were cramped up in a motel room in Houston Texas waiting for the call that we could go home. That quiet time allowed us to simply bond with our newest member. There was no cooking, cleaning, school, or distractions. We simply played, rested, and enjoyed ourselves. We still talk about the adventure of the plane ride to get to our baby girl on time when we left. God’s hand was with us all. We absolutely cherish those memories together.

  2. We had three biological children ages 8,6,4 and brought home a 3 year old daughter from Ethiopia. What I believe made the transition so much better for our older three (and is similar to what Rebecca shared) was that we involved them in a lot of the process — we talked with them before even signing on with an agency, we looked at pictures of other multi-racial families on blogs, we did family activities with our adoptive families group before our new daughter was even home, we took our kids with us to the notary when we needed to get documents signed (which was a lot), we often prayed together for our new daughter, and we took our 2 oldest kids on our 1st trip to Ethiopia so they got to meet their new little sister at the same time as my husband and I did, and they got to see where she was from.

    We also talked a lot about how things might be when their new sister came home — how she’d act, even down to the fact that she’d probably be afraid of our dog (she was). And we talked about feelings our older kids might have when their new sister was home. We told them all those feelings were normal and they could always come talk to us about them.

    I truly believe involving our kids in the whole journey made all the difference! Getting a new sister via adoption is not something that happened TO my older three kids, it’s something we did as a family.

  3. I’m tweaking this question to how we prepared our kids for fostering (rather than adopting). Our kids were 18 months and 3 years old when we became a licensed foster home. Our 18 month old didn’t know much about what was happening, but with our 3 year old we read the books “Families Change” and “Maybe Days.” They’re written for children in foster care, but they worked very well for explaining things to my daughter. She also saw us getting the clothing and bedrooms ready, and we talked a lot about “when the new kids move in.” She adjusted really well when 3 siblings came to live with us for 8 months. They just moved out a few days ago, so now we’ll have to see how my kids adjust to that aspect of fostering.

  4. We’re still in the process of bringing our son home, so I don’t know if this will be helpful to you. Our bio kids are 8, 5, and 2 and we’ve involved them in the process from the time we started the paperwork for our homestudy. We’ve talked with them about the process and answered their questions (the main one being why we have to wait so long!). Our son has Down Syndrome, so we’ve talked with them in age appropriate terms about that and helped them meet other people with Down Syndrome and see them in videos. Because his language skills will most likely take longer to develop we have also been learning some sign language together. When new updates and pictures come, the kids all get a picture of him to print out and put where they would like. The older kids tend to carry it around in their pockets. Our 5 year old reminds us every time we pray, to pray for his new brother. The difference I’ve seen in preparing them for a bio sibling and an adopted sibling comes with preparing them for the age of the child. With babies, we’ve told them the “games” a baby will play (like holding their finger). With our son we’re adopting we are able to have them prepare in more practical ways, such as learning sign. I have also found that their questions are different. During pregnancy they want to know how the baby got there and how the baby comes out (always an interesting conversation 🙂 ) During the adoption process the questions have involved his birth parents and the reasons why he needs a family. We are planning to bring our oldest with us when we bring our little guy home, because we feel it’s important for him to see the country and culture his brother is coming from. I know there is transition any time a new child is brought home, but can not yet speak to the differences in that transition. Given that he is already mobile, I am assuming that will add a different type of transition than with an infant who is not able to keep up or get into the siblings stuff. 🙂

  5. For our first adoption, our sons were 3 and 5 when we began, and 5 and 7 when their sister arrived home. She was 1, so it seemed very much like welcoming a baby into the house (because the boys felt so grown-up in comparison to her!). We did talk with them during the process about why some children need another family in addition to the family they were born into — but their developmental stages made these pretty simple conversations.

    Now we are nearing the end of a much-longer second adoption, and our daughter is 6, and our sons are 10 and 12. We’ve had more complex discussions about injustice (why poverty, death, or social stigma prevents women from keeping their children). They are difficult, but good, conversations — and allow our kids to see how God can create something beautiful out of suffering and pain.

    Our next daughter is 2 years old, and will need a surgery when she comes home. She also has another special need that we have very little information about, and we’re including our kids in the preparations to help her with it (can’t disclose any specifics here until after court dates). As her homecoming gets closer, we are having family meetings to talk about orphanage behaviors, and we will check out materials and DVDs out from the library that will help us all care for her.

    It’s been so amazing to see our kids’ compassion for their new sister — they are so willing to learn, and want to help her feel at home with us. I know there are some who wonder how having a sister with special needs will affect them — and I know it will bring difficulties we haven’t anticipated — but we can already see the heart of Christ growing in them as we wait for her.