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As in all families, each child in an adoptive family has unique strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, adoptive families may have children from different backgrounds, or who were adopted at different ages.
As children reach school age, their academic strengths and weaknesses become especially apparent. A child who struggles in school requires more help and support from her parents. Meanwhile, her more academically inclined brother or sister may feel jealous at the homework attention a brother or sister receives.
Focus on Strengths
Too often we focus on academic difficulties our children face exclusively. We redouble our efforts to help our child read, maintain focus, or learn math. But after struggling all day at school, facing more of the same at home can be exhausting for a child.
Ask yourself, What are this child's talents? She may have an artistic bent, a sense of humor or kindness, or a special ability to interact with animals. Whatever her skill is, acknowledge and nurture it.
Help your child balance schoolwork difficulties with excellence in other areas. Sports, playing a musical instrument, and caring for a pet all help a child to feel proud of himself.
And give your child chances to contribute to the family. Exempting a child from chores because schoolwork takes all her time only makes her feel less capable. Setting the table, dog-walking, or sorting socks helps a child feel competent and trusted.
Create opportunities for your children to spend family time together in ways that minimize the differences between them. Family hikes, craft activities, and cooking together provide ways for siblings to interact without competition.
Time for the High-Achiever
Remember, children view any attention, even the negative attention given an academically weak sibling, as desirable. Provide time for each child to discuss his feelings or jealousy with you privately. A child who believes he is understood feels better, even if the situation remains unchanged.
Try to set aside time for each child — perhaps a special weekend activity or a one-on-one outing. However, don't think you can make it "all fair." Some kids simply need more attention; time cannot be "evened out." Give your attention to whoever needs it most.
Remember that siblings of children with academic challenges develop empathy early and learn that "different" doesn't mean "inferior."