Ask AF: New Sibling Jealousy

When new children join an established family, sibling jealousy is a common problem.

Q: We are adopting a nine-year-old, who has been living with us for two months now. My 10-year-old daughter seems to be jealous over the attention her new sister is getting, and thinks she is trying to “steal” her friends. I’ve been trying to spend one-on-one time with my older daughter. What else can we do?


A: Your 10-year-old is at an age when friendships are very important. Sisters, even from birth, often feel jealousy. Make time for her to have friends over when the nine-year-old does something fun outside the home. Help your nine-year-old find friends by signing her up for activities, like Girl Scouts, dance, or soccer — possibly different activities from her sister’s.

As to the attention your new daughter is getting, find chances to “even the score” with your comments. For example, if someone says, “You are so special” to the adoptee, you might say, “Both of my children are special.” When you spend one-on-one time with your 10-year-old, call attention to it: “We are going shopping together because I want to pay attention to you.” When you don’t have time to be together, at least acknowledge her feelings: “I miss our special times, too” or “I know you sometimes feel sad that we adopted. That is OK.” Also, point out the time she has had with you and can never lose: “We were your parents for 10 years, and always will be.”

Finally, remember that you’re still in the early days of placement; these feelings often work out over time.

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