Relationships with Your Birth Siblings
Whether you’re an adult adoptee of a closed adoption who has recently connected with your biological siblings, or you’re adoptee of an open adoption who would like some help navigating new or existing relationships with birth siblings, the opportunity to get to know your birth siblings is a special one.
Not all adoptees know their birth siblings, or have a desire to have that relationship. But for those who do, the following information may be helpful.
For Adoptees in Open Adoptions
Maybe you’ve always had some amount of contact with biological siblings through your birth parents. Perhaps you’re entering into adulthood and you’d like to have a stronger, standalone relationship with your birth siblings. Or maybe you’ve always had contact with your birth parents, but now you’d like to get to know your biological siblings, as well.
Whatever your situation, it’s normal for sibling relationships, even exciting and positive growth, to come with a few mixed emotions.
A couple potential experiences you may have:
A resurfacing of feelings about your adoption when new siblings come into your family (birth or adoptive).
The arrival of a new sibling can be an emotional time for anyone, but for adoptees, there is often an added layer of complexity. Even if you’re close with your birth mother and/or father, you can have some conflicting feelings if they have another baby, or if your (adoptive) parents have another child, either biologically or through adoption. If a new sibling brings up complicated emotions, it may be touching on some old emotions related to your adoption, and it’s worth exploring those thoughts and feelings. This can be done by talking with trusted friends or family, with other adoptees who may have had similar experiences, or with an adoption-competent counselor.
“Why did my birth mother place me for adoption but not my birth sibling?” “Do my parents love me differently than my biological or adoptive siblings?” “If I were raised by my birth mother, would I be more like my birth sibling?” “Do I connect more with my birth siblings than I do with my (adoptive) siblings, or vice versa?” There are almost endless ways you can look at yourself and your siblings, either by adoption, by blood or both, and try to draw comparisons. But most comparisons will raise questions that don’t have a clear answer, and they can leave you feeling insecure. If you’ve noticed that you’re comparing yourself to your siblings and you’re feeling bad as a result, you may benefit from working on your self-esteem and trying to make peace with questions that don’t have clear-cut answers. For some, a professional is helpful for this.
For Adoptees in Closed Adoptions Who Have Reconnected with Birth Family
If you’ve recently reunited with your birth siblings, this is likely an exciting but uncertain time for you. This is especially true if you were unable to reunite with your birth parents. It can be odd at first to have a connection to someone who is, in many respects, a stranger. A new sibling relationship can be a wonderful addition to your life, but there are occasionally unforeseen experiences that take a few adoptees by surprise.
A couple potential experiences you may have:
The reunion relationship not being what one or both of you hoped.
Relationships require equal effort from both parties to work. Even then, there can be fundamental differences that lead to the weakening of a relationship, regardless of biological ties. You’ll either need to manage your expectations, make some changes, or cut ties if the relationship becomes a constant source of negativity for you both. Talking to other adoptees about their own reunions with siblings can sometimes be helpful. No one’s experiences will be exactly like your own, but sometimes a different perspective can point us to new potential solutions.
Connecting more strongly with one birth sibling over another birth family member.
It’s not uncommon to have certain family members whom we feel closest to. We may love all of our family, but there can be one person in particular that we find easiest to talk to. Avoid hurt feelings when possible by spending time with whoever you feel is appropriate, but don’t feel guilty if your adoption reunion results in, for example, a stronger relationship with your birth sibling than your birth mother.
The Benefits of Having a Relationship with Your Biological Siblings
A person’s siblings are an important part of their identity on a fundamental level, and are often the strongest relationships in that person’s lifetime. Although we addressed some of the possible challenging emotions you can experience in a relationship with your birth siblings, most adoptees who have a relationship with their biological siblings enjoy that relationship with their family. If you are able to get to know your birth sibling, and you’re open to having that relationship, it could benefit you both in many ways for the rest of your lives.
Maintaining a positive connection with your birth siblings opens up entire branches of your family for you both to love. For example, if you don’t have siblings through adoption, a birth sibling is a chance to experience that unique relationship. Through your birth siblings, you may come to know nieces or nephews and other family members.
Like any family relationship, the one you share with your siblings will likely take some effort from both parties. But the bond that you can share is very often worth it.
Not sure if you have birth siblings? Unsure of how to find your birth siblings? You can learn more about searching for birth siblings as an adult adoptee here. Want to talk through your thoughts and feelings regarding your birth siblings with adoptees who may have similar experiences to your own? Check out some of these adoptee resources.