Ask AF: No Longer the Only Boy

An adoptive parent asks our expert how to help a son who feels put out by an adopted brother.

Q: Before we adopted an eight-year-old boy from foster care, my nine-year-old biological son was used to being the only boy (he has two sisters). He’s having a hard time with sharing his more boyish toys and his “guy time” with Dad.


A: Your biological son has given up quite a bit — his status as only boy, toys, time with parents. Adopting a child at or close to the same age as a child already in your family is hard because the new child likes the same things. Developmentally, socially, and emotionally, they may be quite a bit different in age. Observe them carefully and see how you can help them close the gap.

Make it a point that your older son continues to have alone time with Dad. Maybe they could do a weekly activity, such as Boy Scouts, a martial arts class, or building something, while the newest addition has alone time with Mom. Make sure that any activities they both do (school, baseball, and so on) can accommodate them in separate teams or classrooms. If either wants to have a friend over, it can sometimes be together (although three is hard), or one could have a friend while the other has alone time with a parent.

You didn’t mention how old your girls are, but their lives have also been impacted. Be sure each of them has alone time with parents, and try to plan fun activities that will involve all four of your children. Cooking, gardening, and board games can all foster cooperation, taking turns, and togetherness.

You might explain to your son that his new brother had 96 months of not being in the family, so he needs time to help him become a part of the family. You shouldn’t expect it all to gel until several years go by.

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