Foster kids and biological children are brought together to become siblings under a variety of circumstances. When a foster parent receives a new placement, they view that child as their own for the duration that the child is with them. It is imperative for each child to get along and earn a mutual respect, appreciation and love for one another.
Regardless of the family dynamics, relationships between siblings are greatly impactful. Here’s a guide for parents to help handle these relationships:
Start a Dialogue
Many foster children have endured traumatic circumstances and may have developed unhealthy coping mechanisms and behavioral issues, as a result. Due to this, it’s easy for parents to direct the majority of attention to the foster child and, by comparison, it can seem that biological children are “fine.” But just because biological children may not require this additional attention, it does not mean they aren’t experiencing a whirlwind of feelings prompted by this adjustment.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, these feelings can include a sense of loss of family closeness, fear of physical harm or having belongings stolen, and feeling the effects of higher stress levels within the family. Families should be intentional about talking and expressing feelings at the onset to avoid building resentment that’s much harder to remove later.
“It’s important to let each child know they are being heard and that their opinion matters. By letting my children know they are heard, I am also able to see how I can be a better parent for them.” – Stephanie, Foster Mother of 10 years
Keep It Balanced
Life can get so busy that parents struggle to complete the daily necessities, much less adequately divide their time between the children in their homes, but even if certain mental, physical or behavioral needs skew the balance of time spent toward one child, there are other ways to ensure that each child feels equally valued.
One simple way families do this is by holding both biological and foster children to the same standard of behavior. If special needs exist, they should be accommodated, but it’s important to avoid using either child as a positive or negative example to the other.
“Each of my children have different needs and that’s what I love about them. They are each unique in their own way.” – Stephanie, Foster Mother of 10 years
Create Meaningful Moments
The importance of siblings spending time together may seem obvious, but those moments of bonding can be more impactful than parents realize. Children are living through one of the most formative periods of their lives. Life’s moments and experiences are deeply felt and carried throughout life. If children are coming from a traumatic environment, creating these supportive moments is all the more valuable.
Parents should begin new traditions with input from both children. Promoting these kinds of positive interactions creates a sense of belonging for foster children and helps biological kids adjust to the shift in family dynamic. Overall, this reinforces the family unit and creates a level of stability both biological and foster kids can benefit from.
“My husband and I made it a point to have at least one day dedicated to our family and building a strong relationship between all of our children. By doing this, it’s connecting our family together and allowing our foster children to know that they are a part of our family.” – Stephanie, Foster Mother of 10 years
Each family dynamic is different, but we hope these tips and insights can help parents strengthen the bonds between their children. If you would like to find out more about fostering or how we support families, contact us.