What about the siblings?

I get a lot of questions about how our adoption of Ty affected our bio kids. Or how our out-of-birth order adoption of three unrelated teen/tweens affected the kids who were already at home. The human part of me is telling you it sucks and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Jesus is whispering that He’s redeeming it and He’s got it.


Watching our kids be in the destructive path of the typical self-protecting behaviors of kids from hard places (e.g., mostly verbal and emotional abuse) feels like someone has ripped your heart and soul out of your body and stomped all over it. It makes me physically ill sometimes.

We all have either primary or secondary PTSD. Having changes in primary care givers results in PTSD. Many of the behaviors that result from being a child with PTSD cause PTSD in the other household members. Even though we’re doing much better than 4 months ago, every time my picture shows up on my husband’s phone, his blood pressure skyrockets and his adrenaline starts pumping. Similarly, even minor conflict between our most aggressive child and me results in our 9 year old having an emotional meltdown.

Because we have four kids from hard places, and I have my own issues, we often get in these vicious cycles where everyone is triggering everyone else. It’s one thing to have one kid from a hard place, but when that kid’s anxiety triggers the others’, you can find yourself in the midst of a chain reaction of meltdowns and incredible neediness.

Each child gets a drastically imbalanced amount of our attention. I often feel like we don’t have enough time or energy to meet the needs of anyone, let alone everyone.

All that being said, this “refiner’s fire” that our family is walking through has had its redeeming moments.

We’ve had opportunities to see our kids show us up in compassion. Jesus knew what he was talking about when he talked about “faith like a child.” In general, PJ, Mia, and Ty have not held grudges about either wrongs done to them or been resentful about how being called to raise kids from hard places has impacted our lives. That’s more than I can say for most adults walking this road…or even myself. Watching them live out love for their siblings usually brings me to tears when I talk about it.

Less judgment, more compassion. Our kids have learned more about the “whys” behind behaviors than most adults. We’ve been given the privilege to have eyes more like Jesus and understand the hurt and insecurity that drives the maddening behaviors.

We know Jesus better than ever. You really don’t understand unconditional love until you live with and love someone who is consistently mean and nasty to you and almost never recognizes being loved, let alone reciprocates it.

Every day, we have to constantly have our heads remind our hearts that:

  1. We know that God has us walking this road for a reason.
  2. God can redeem the hurts our family is experiencing.
  3. We need to focus on Jesus and not on all the things that seem to be going wrong.

These reminders help us love the way we’re supposed to and not spend too much time hating our lives, resenting our decision to adopt, and worrying that we’ve ruined our family.


  1. Sara @ The Holy MessAugust 11, 2017

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve written about the challenge to older siblings when adopting or fostering children who have early childhood trauma. You provide powerful, important insights. xoxo From one mom to another, I am here to support you!

    1. MelissaAugust 12, 2017

      I’m glad you stopped by Sara! Honored to be in this messy life with you.

  2. DanielleMay 27, 2015

    I too have felt the adrenaline spike, the sickness over the treatment of the siblings, and the send-you-to-your-knees humbleness at the grace and love my bio kids continually offer. Well said.

  3. JenniMarch 30, 2015

    These could have been my words. It so accurately describes how my children extend grace and compassion.

  4. NickiFebruary 7, 2015

    Thank you for writing this, you put into words many feelings and situations my kids have all experienced.

    1. MelissaFebruary 8, 2015

      Nicki, I’m glad my writing connected with you…not glad you can relate :/ My prayers are with you.

  5. LisaFebruary 2, 2015

    Thanks so much for ‘keeping it real!’ I needed to hear the last paragraphs of this today.

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