While the importance of continuing sibling relationships is rather widely understood today, missing siblings can be all too common for children in out-of-home care. It’s hard to watch your kids grieve the loss of these connections. So what’s the best thing to do about it? Talk! Helping someone, young or old, to grieve by offering a supportive, understanding, and judgment-free ear can help to ease that sense of loss, and clear up misconceptions that children or youth might have formed during confusing transitions. As a foster or adoptive parent, helping your child understand and grieve is one of the most healing supports you can offer.
Whether the child no longer has any contact with his sibling(s), less contact than they once had, or if the siblings are step-siblings, half-siblings, full siblings, or siblings born later that they never met, a lot of questions and tensions tend to arise from the children and youth in our care. Siblings offer a natural support. They share a similar point of view, as well as a unique bond filled with memories, trust, and shared experiences (regardless of the inevitable rivalry that exists between most siblings). If that sibling dynamic is suddenly or gradually made unavailable, we may see the child or youth in our care struggling behaviorally, emotionally, or even physically.
It’s important to recognize the loss they are experiencing and answer their questions honestly (keeping the details shared at a level that matches the child’s age and developmental stage). Talk openly with the child and ask him to share his feelings and thoughts with you, as well. Sometimes it can help to have a therapist who can support this process. Creating a life book may also help the child better understand his relationships, past, and identity, as well. You might also check in periodically with social workers and foster/adoptive parents of the sibling(s) to find out if more sibling contact is possible.
Later in life, you may find yourself supporting your child as he searches forthe sibling(s) he lost contact with. Wherever you may find yourself along this journey, we hope you’ll reach out to us if you are looking for resources, have any doubts, or need to know what your next step is. Give us a call at 1-800-762-8063 or 414-475-1246. You can also reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.