If envy had a color, it would be black and blue, like a bruise. Those were the colors reflected in my two daughters eyes all too frequently during the past two years.

For eight and a half years, my older daughter, now eleven, was an only child. She was adopted from China when she was four months old. She was definitely the princess, the center of our world and the apple of our eye. However, she was lonely and wanted a sister and my husband and I wanted another child, so we adopted a five-and-a-half year old little girl from Kazakhstan – (now eight). Our fantasy of having two beautiful little girls, walking hand-in-hand, playing together and loving each other was quickly shattered. My oldest realized she was no longer an “only” and my youngest, who was abandoned at birth, wanted all of the attention and resented having a sister. Chaos became the order of the day, every day.

Our youngest child has many problems – ADHD, OCD, and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to name only a few. However, she is a survivor with a very outgoing personality.
She struggles in school and socially.

My oldest daughter is a straight A student, popular, well adjusted, sensitive and very shy.

They are like oil and water. The mothering skills I thought I had down so well were tossed right out the window when daughter number two came along. My sweet oldest daughter became a giant green jealous monster. My youngest has many limitations and tries so hard to be like my oldest daughter and gets angry when she can’t do something quite as well. Here are some of the strategies that I have implemented in the past two years.

Obviously, my older daughter has much more sophisticated social skills and academic skills than my youngest. When report cards come home, we open them privately with each child and we don’t post them on the refrigerator. We have a discussion with them individually complimenting them on a job well done. My little one will never be a straight A student, but she tries harder than any kid I know and that deserves as much recognition as my older one getting straight A’s since Kindergarten. We have a family celebration at report card time. They both feel recognized and proud of themselves.
We attend their sports events as a family. They cheer each other on enthusiastically. My oldest swims and my youngest plays soccer. Since my husband and I are supportive of their athletic abilities, they have learned by example to be supportive, too. They actually compliment each other and are each other’s biggest fan!

My youngest daughter is an expert at pushing the other one’s buttons. She says something mean under her breath, which immediately causes a reaction from the oldest. She does it quietly so no one but my oldest daughter can hear her.
To get back at her, my oldest will take notice of anything and everything the other one does wrong and bring it to her attention in a belittling manner.
An argument will ensue and before we know it, the oldest is sulking and the youngest is having a temper tantrum.
To rectify this behavior, we have enforced a very simple solution – The Golden Rule. ‘Do unto your sister as you would have your sister do unto you’. We have to repeat this mantra many times during a typical week, but it works. My oldest daughter has been de-throned and that hurts her so she takes out her anger by making my little one miserable. Meanwhile, my younger one is much more vocal and loud and tries to steal the spotlight at all times. She never had the opportunity to be recognized as an individual while living in an orphanage her entire life.
Other rules we have established are: no talking when the other one is talking and you must let them finish their sentence. No tattling. Do not borrow each other’s things without asking.
We have assigned an equal amount of chores that are age appropriate so one does not feel discriminated against by having more to do than the other. We are careful to give them chores they are good at (my little one is an expert laundry folder and my oldest can change a kitty litter in less than 30 seconds) so they feel good about themselves and their accomplishments.

This traditional started with just my oldest because she was in dire need of my undivided attention. We usually just hang out and go shopping, out to lunch, maybe a movie. This gives us the time to talk about her feelings and gives her an opportunity to vent her frustration about her sister. I can empathize with her about being an older sister and dealing with the other one’s annoying behavior. She loves having me all to herself again like “old times”.
Eventually, the youngest finally began to bond to me so she wanted to know why she couldn’t spend time with me alone, too. So, now we do things together she enjoys; bike riding, kicking the soccer ball, going grocery shopping and out to eat. This is valuable time for me to talk to her about school and the difficulties she is having making friends. It’s a great opportunity for her to learn some social skills by observing my behavior outside of the house.

I own a tutor referral service and my busiest time of day is usually when they come home from school. I am either on the phone talking to parents that need a tutor or am walking out the door to meet a potential client and their child. (My husband also works from home.) This also happens to be prime homework time. I have asked my older daughter to help her sister with her homework. She wants to be a teacher, so I have presented it as an opportunity for her to practice her teaching skills. Surprisingly, since the youngest one wants the older one’s approval and acceptance so badly, she is quite cooperative.
Since my oldest is eleven, my husband and I sometimes run errands in the afternoon on a Saturday for an hour and leave them at home. They have to get along when we are gone because there are severe consequences if they don’t. The rule we have is they have to play a game together or read to each other. They are not allowed to go off to their rooms alone and not speak while we are gone. This promotes cooperation and an appreciation for each other’s company.

Adopting a child is hard enough, but adopting an older child with learning challenges can be more painful than joyful. We did not know all of the problems our youngest daughter had at the time of the adoption. We were expecting an easy transition. We were so spoiled because our oldest was such an easy baby who bonded immediately to us. It was very difficult accepting the fact that my youngest might never be able to cuddle up on my lap and be comfortable doing so. Our expectations for her are so different than my older child. If she can make one friend who actually likes and respects her, we will be happy. If the school system will finally acknowledge her learning disabilities and do something to help her, we will be thrilled. If she makes it to middle school without having to be placed in a residential facility due to her behavior problems, we will be ecstatic.

My older daughter has had to live the past two years with a very disruptive child. She is no longer in the spotlight getting our undivided attention. There is an upside, though. Her quiet life before we adopted again where everything went along as planned was easy. She has been exposed to the reality of her sister not fitting in as easily as she has and has listened to her crying tears of anguish and despair. She has been witness to her sister treating me terribly, but has seen that I will not be mean back and I will offer my love to her anyway and have learned not to take her mean comments personally. She has finally realized that I do not love her any less because I had to devote so much time the past two years to helping her sister adjust to a new country and a new culture. My husband and I have learned that beneath the tough façade my youngest puts on for the world is a terrified little girl who still is not sure we won’t be “giving her back.”

The black and blue shades of envy are slowly disappearing from the eyes of my children. They are beginning to accept each other. My older daughter has learned that not everything can always be perfect and peaceful and my youngest is learning how to trust and love, for the first time in her life. We are learning our responsibility as parents is to teach our children tolerance and acceptance of other people’s shortcomings.

Author's Bio: 

Laurie Hurley lives in Southern California with her daughters, husband, two dogs and four cats. Laurie is President of her own tutor referral service Bright Apple Tutoring, Inc. and Home Tutoring Business which offers a complete business package to others who want to begin a tutoring service in their community. She is an educational consultant who frequently helps her clients who have adopted special needs children internationally with tutoring and other support services. Laurie can be contacted at info@hometutoringbusiness.com