Ask AF: Jealous of Dad

Children adopted at an older age may exhibit possessive or jealous behaviors — even jealousy of the relationship between Mom and Dad.

Q: Six months ago we adopted siblings — a six-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl. Our son has adjusted well, but our daughter is extremely jealous of my relationship with my husband. When my husband and I hold hands, kiss, or call each other by nicknames, our daughter will say, “You love Dad more than you love us.” How can I reassure her?


A: Most adopted children — especially those adopted at older ages — come from scarcity. They have never had enough attention, food, or love to go around, so they are anxious to get theirs. You and your husband shouldn’t edit your expressions of affection. You should, however, acknowledge and talk about your daughter’s concern. Draw a picture of a small heart and label it: Mommy’s heart before you came into our family. Then draw a picture of a big heart, and explain that your heart has expanded to have room for all children in the family. You might also give her a piece of heart-shaped jewelry, or make a big, red heart that she can display in her room. Tell her how much you enjoy being a mom and a wife, and say that your family wouldn’t be complete without your children.

Make time to have a special girls’ day out, for just the two of you. (Dad and your son should have a boys’ day out, too!) Your husband should also spend time alone with your daughter, and explain how his heart grew bigger, too. You want her to feel confident about and revel in parental love. Remember, it takes time to erase nine years of anxiety.


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