In my last post I discussed the huge positive impact my older biological children have had on their younger adopted siblings.  We have so many kids that we are our own little social circle!  What if a Christian couple wants to adopt and does not already have children that will become older siblings to adopted kids?  There are many benefits to including trustworthy older children as ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ within your circle of adoption support that includes extended family and friends. 

Where can trustworthy older kids be found to fulfill this role, and what should parents look for?  A few places to start include:

  1. families in your church
  2. local home school support group
  3. 4-H or other leadership development  clubs/programs
  4. older bio siblings of other adoptive families
  5. cousins, or young aunts and uncles, in your family.

Of course, you can’t just pick just any kids to befriend your adopted children.  You’ll need to spend time together as families, getting to know both parents and kids.  Here are some qualities (no special order) that you should be on the look out for in both youth and their parents:

  • high moral standards (teach and obey the 10 Commandments)
  • compassion for children, and desire to help others
  • integrity
  • trustworthiness
  • honesty
  • not gossips
  • respect for parents and role of parents as authority in family
  • peer independence
  • racial, ethnic, or cultural connections
  • spiritually mature
  • solid work ethic
  • confidence and openness to new people and things
  • willingness to socialize within family, and with other families

In what types of social settings can you engage these young people to develop ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ relationships with your adopted kids?  First, know that all situations involving adopted kids should be well supervised by you, their parent(s), for many years to come, until you have a solid level of trust with your adopted child.  Consider engaging in only family activities, so relationships can grow within that context, ie: you are with your kids, and other parents are with their kids.  A few ideas for family-to-family fellowship include:

  1. Family fun night with simple soup supper followed by board games gets laughter and conversation going
  2. Saturday morning brunch followed by same gender team chores – moms and daughters canning, quilting, or crafting; dads and sons working on cars or fix-it projects
  3. Sunday picnics after church in the park playing recreational team sports – baseball, basketball, sledding, soccer

Notice each of these includes a meal!  That makes it more convenient for everyone, but also fellowship at the meal table builds relationships and is an easy place to start. Be sure to include the whole family – kids of all ages and parents – to forge friendships with the whole family.  Start by inviting families to your house or neighborhood.  Keep things inexpensive by doing potluck meals.  Don’t over schedule these opportunities, but think of them as a once-a-month or seasonal treat.  The purpose is to get together to talk, laugh, and build lasting friendships. 

Remember to keep things low-key so as not to overwhelm your adopted kids.  One larger family at a time is plenty, or maybe two smaller ones. Though it is easier, and probably more fruitful for the budding friendship to just relate to one family at a time.  Your relaxed and friendly attitude will set the standard.  Talking with kids about your expectations before these get-togethers will help them know what is going to happen, and their part in it. 

It is probably a good idea to let the other parents know your train of thought on this, but not necessarily the kids.  Parents working together, fully informed, can steer their kids toward family friendships, but can’t force them.  Things may not work out as hoped for, so keep trying with other families until you have some success.  Always trust your instincts, and that of your kids, if you or they sense something uncomfortable.  Kids may lie to get their way, but their emotions and attitudes (and acting out behavior) usually reveal the truth.

If your adopted kids have inappropriate behaviors that are known to you ie: stealing, lying, fire-starting, sexual acting out, etc. please let the other parents know about these without giving specific, confidentiality-breaking details.  If you don’t have anything to suspect about your kids, be a good supervisor anyway, and ask the other parents to help in this manner.  It is always a good idea to make sure kids are NOT hiding in closets, playhouses, forts, or tents while playing, doors to rooms open, and no kids should play in bedrooms just to keep things safe.  Parents and kids should be within viewing, and listening distance at all times to insure no monkey-business!

Adoptive parents need a break from needy kids.  Your adopted kids need friends, especially ones that can be peers and mentors to them.  Sharing the burden with other strong families will help, and new friendships will be the reward.  No matter how young your adopted child is, even if an infant, spending time with other like-minded families will be a blessing to you and your adopted kids.  Through the years, friendships can grow which will only increase the much-needed, life-long support system for your adopted child.