Often I talk to parents about teaching traumatized children repair skills. Maybe it makes sense to take a step back and talk about forgiveness skills. If a child makes a repair for doing harm, but the one wounded refuses to forgive, a wound of a different kind springs up within the relationship.
Bio Sibling WWF
When you bring a foster or adoptive child into a home with biological children, sparks may fly after a while. There can be so many transgressions that family life can feel like a war zone. Even though it may not be spoken, there can be an ongoing Bio Sib vs. Chosen Sib WWF.
Forgiveness Is Key
Forgiveness is critical for the mental and physical health of the wounded party. Research says so. To maintain a peaceful, harmonious family life, children need to be taught to both repair and forgive. When forgiveness isn’t given, the person holding the upset, anger, and hurt feelings from the transgression stews and stuffs and, sometimes, erupts. That is fertile ground for resentment, shutdowns, cut-offs, numbness, explosive outbursts, drug abuse, self-harming, and even expression on a body level in the form of ulcers, indigestion, sleep problems, depression, and more.
Compassion is the Doorway to Forgiveness
Forgiveness requires compassion, and compassion is fostered through understanding. Biological children need to understand that the brain of the adopted child has been impacted by the attachment and trauma that came before their sibling came home for good. They have been hurt, and the hurt remains in the psyche and on the body of the traumatized child. Even when the new family has been welcoming, accepting, tolerant, and kind, toxic stress from the trauma that came during the formative years persists in the absence of the abuse.
The Hard Cold Neuroscience
That is a hard fact to understand; however, it is the neuroscience of the matter. Siblings need to better understand the facts, albeit at an age appropriate level. There are some great videos on youtube.com you can show to your biological children that can help them understand what is going on in the brain and the body of their traumatized sibling. Sowing the seeds of compassion and forgiveness helps biological siblings heal from the everyday onslaught of jealousy, meanness, harshness, self-centeredness, outbursts, and drama from their hurt and hurting adopted sibling.