Our family is a blend of biological (home-grown) children and adopted (heart-grown) children. As parents, we have worked very hard to facilitate and build attachment with our adopted children. For our biological kids, this has proved to be a challenge. The importance of attachment and connection within your home is crucial, but when you welcome kids from hard places into your home, the resulting chaos can make it seem impossible.
So, how do you create an environment for love? Here are 5 ways to facilitate healthy attachment in your blended home.
Find a Common Ground
It was clear early on that our biological children were having a very difficult time finding something in common with our adopted children. While the birth order in our biological home had never been disrupted before we adopted, our adopted children both experienced different shifts in birth order before arriving in our home. In her first five years, our oldest adoptive daughter lived as an only child, a triplet (one of three 5-year-olds living in her foster home), the older sister, and the youngest. Our youngest adoptive daughter had lived as the only child and the baby of the family. When they joined our biological family, our younger biological son went from the coveted baby-of-the-family position to the dreaded middle child. This was incredibly difficult for him, and the shift has shaped him in many ways.
The shifting of birth order will change a child and allow them to experience many different perspectives. It can also cause a lot of confusion in the child’s identity. The idea of shifting roles within a home is challenging and can easily breed resentment making inter-family connections troublesome. This has been an uphill battle for our family. Like all things in the world of adoption, families are usually dealing with multiple factors at the same time. All of this can lead your children to struggle to find a common ground with their new family members. When looking for common ground, it is important to find something that all of the kids will enjoy. As a parent, you know your kids better than anyone else. Look at each one of your kids and try to find something you can build upon to create activities for the kids to enjoy doing together.
Make it Fun
Nobody wants to be forced to connect. The more fun you make the intentional time, the more likely a sincere attachment is to take root. Try to find things that allow creativity to blossom. It is also a good idea to utilize multiple senses.
When the world came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our elementary school art teacher introduced us to a super basic online art teacher on Youtube. We would often spend hours at our dining room table drawing together. We seriously had the best time! Now, let me stop you before you think we are all artistically inclined. I can not draw a stick figure, but I was willing to show my lack of drawing ability in order to have fun with my kids. It was so much fun. I would have never picked that activity, but like a lot of people experienced during the pandemic, a new hobby entered into our lives. When we said yes to trying something new, we discovered that we could have fun learning a new skill together. This activity came to us, but there have been many times that we have had to come up with something on our own.
Ask for Help
When you are living in a state of stress and your kids are not connecting, it is very possible that helpful solutions may escape you for a while. It is really important to be willing to look for help. I have found that the people who are close to our family are often a tremendous resource when it comes to looking at our situation with fresh eyes. They have been able to reach through our struggles and offer ideas and solutions that I would have never thought of on my own. It really does take a village.
The blending of siblings in the world of adoption is a really tricky business. As a parent, you have a lot of irons in the fire, and having the fresh perspective of an unbiased third party can often produce great results. Therapists have an entirely different set of skills and resources that can help bridge the gap in personal relationships. Therapy can teach and equip you with tools that will be helpful as you find a healthy rhythm in your family. A therapist can also be an invaluable asset as they are educated on how to deal with individual as well as family dynamics. There is a huge benefit to having a therapist look into your family and share their wisdom.
Keep Showing Up
There are many times you will want to give up. The truth is, if you are reading this article, you may know all too well the struggles with family attachment and are searching for some help. The beauty of this journey is that tomorrow is a new day. Leading a blended family through adoption is anything but a walk in the park. It can often seem to be a dead-end street, but the fact that you keep on showing up for your family will speak volumes. There is a beautiful, unspoken blessing that comes from showing up for your family. Trying again and again, day after day, minute after minute shows your family that even though it is hard, you keep going. Beautiful moments will appear along the way, and there will certainly be bumps and bruises too. Never forget the beauty that can come from ashes. Never give up!
Becky Dell is a Staff Storyteller for adoption.com. Now married for over 20 years, her journey to motherhood started with a miscarriage, followed by the birth of her 2 biological sons, and brought to completion with the domestic adoptions of 2 daughters. You used to be able to find Becky baking cookies and playing trains with her two tiny sons, but now, you will find her learning to parent through the rough and rewarding world of adoption, attachment, and trauma. She is a fierce advocate for adoption and processes the many facets of adoption through the written word.