Today I am delighted to have a guest post by the lovely Ranji from Tooting Mama. Back when we first brought the children home, I came across Ranji’s blog. I was so relieved to read her posts and discover that what we were experiencing wasn’t unique to us – reading her blog made me feel a little less alone! Ranji adopted her children a few years before us and when I mentioned that the children were discovering sibling rivalry for the first time, she was quick to reassure me that this is perfectly normal – and for adopted children can be much more powerful than in other sibling groups!
I get it, siblings fight. But in my home, with my adopted children who are siblings, the sibling rivalry battle is very real. It’s like living through endless episodes of Horrid Henry and both my adopted children if I let them, would fight it out to the bitter end.
There are times I think my adopted children hate each other
They just can’t wait to get each other into trouble. We have a lot of snitching, sniping, telling tales, and incidents that happen when you aren’t looking making it hard to arbitrate. Those darn kids are sneaky.
I know all siblings are competitive, but with my adopted siblings, they take it to a whole new level.
Sibling rivalry and the fight for love
My adopted children use their sibling rivalry to fight for love.
They have come from a background where they wasn’t much of anything: food, clothes, care, attention, play, toys, fun. And now they have an abundance and they want it all for themselves including Mum and Dad.
And with us, the fight continues as they literally battle it out for our attention, approval and love.
We try and assure them there is plenty of love in our family.
Mummy and Daddy have an endless supply of love, it will never stop. But sometimes assurances are not enough.
How can I deal with my adopted children’s sibling rivalry?
1 I need to get to grips with their crushingly low self-esteem
Both my kids are self-confident, mouthy, not shy at all. But they have fragile egos, fuelled by their low self-esteem. And this drives their sibling rivalry, the ongoing battle of one up manship and the battle for our love.
It doesn’t matter what it is if there is a competition it must be fought. If there’s a battle it has to be won!
It drives us mad!
2 I need to get my children to appreciate and understand their differences
We are trying really hard to get our adopted children to understand it is their differences, their uniqueness that makes them so very special to us.
But at the moment their differences can be used in a battle to win parental love and approval.
But they have that already. They just can’t appreciate it quite yet. See point 1.
3 I need to paying attention, really pay attention
OK, I admit I can be bad at this one.
I have to get better at listening to my adopted children, really listening, really empathising, really showing I understand their problems and issues.
But when your life is a just cacophony of noise, both kids vying for your attention, and when they don’t get it it’s meltdown, screaming and shouting. It’s not easy.
But no. I am going to have to pay attention and listen.
4 I need to give my adopted children more one-on-one time
This is the divide and conquer strategy.
Split them up and give them one-on-one time so they get the full, individual attention of one parent.
We haven’t done this in a while, and we need to start doing again. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
It’s just spending quality time with one child at one time.
5 They need to play separately more often
The joy of adopting siblings is watching them play together, knowing they have each other and always will. But sometimes their relationship can get destructive when their sibling rivalry takes hold.
Getting my adopted children to play separately helps them to cool down, and explore activities that suit their characters.
Wonder Boy has become a voracious reader, and Super Girl when she’s not teaching her cuddly toys is crafting a novel.
Then when they’re back together – hey they like each other again!
6 All’s fair in love and war
We try to be scrupulously fair and at the same time respect our children’s ages and age difference.
Wonder Boy got his first tablet at age 10. And it’s only fair that Super Girl waits til she’s 10 too. And this has and is the source of many a grudge and fight between Super Girl and Wonder Boy.
When we get to the crux of the meltdown we find out that Super Girl is insanely jealous. She wants an electronic gadget too. And doesn’t understand why she has to wait.
But hey, fair’s fair. And we’re sticking to our guns on this one.
And the big lesson here, life can sometimes seem to be unfair.
7 We all need praise, praise, praise
It was my social worker who said to me children, adopted or not, cannot get enough praise.
We were really good at this, then our bad habits crept in and I know I can be a bit negative when we are in the midst of tumultuous turmoil.
But when the praise is pointed and specific, it really does work. And it can help to turn behaviour around.
Seriously I should listen to my own advice!
Tooting Mama is a mum to two adopted children Wonder Boy and Super Girl. You can catch up with their adventures on her blog Tooting Mama.