"Children in blended families were as healthy and close to their siblings as those in biological ones." --Sibling study by the University of Minnesota
At WHFC, we have seen a growing trend among clients towards building blended families - families with both biological and adopted children. Perhaps this is due to secondary infertility, second marriages, marriages at older ages, or maybe humanitarian beliefs. Understanding blended families is important because there are more layers of complexity within this type of family.
Based on our professional and personal experiences with blended families, we have seen some themes emerge. Certainly, blended families share experiences typical of all families. However, the unique perspectives of adoptive parents, adoptees and biological siblings offer important insights: "Blending shapes who we are."
" A prospective adoptive parent must go into this with eyes wide open." It's hard to tease out all the factors that contribute to each child's adjustment in a blended family–birth order, gender, balance of biological and adopted children, and issues unique to adoption all come into play. Parents need to not place too much emphasis on adoption, while at the same time respect that some issues are harder for adopted children.
" Genetics is a powerful component of who we are and shouldn't be dismissed." The missing piece for an adopted child is the biological link and therefore identity issues become more complex. The birth family is always present, whether in reality or the abstract, and the adoptive parents need to honor that.
Adoptive Parent's Perspective
" It builds flexible families."
" It's important to normalize developmental stages that all children go through." When an adopted child is going through a rough period, it's good to normalize it by reflecting on how an older biological child went through a hard period too. It's not always about adoption.
Biological Sibling's Perspective
" It's important to acknowledge and nurture unique qualities of each child apart from how they came into the family."
" Relationships within the family evolve over time." Siblings will bond differently with one another just as they do in non-blended families. Also, these relationships may change over time.
The author is a social worker with WHFC. She is an adoptive parent and was raised in a blended family.
Wide Horizons For Children is dedicated to the well-being and security of vulnerable and orphaned children worldwide. To accomplish our mission, we: - Strengthen families to improve their ability to care for their children - Improve outcomes for children living outside of parental care - Place children with loving, adoptive families - Support birth parents, adoptive parents and children throughout their lives