One facet of our decision to adopt a daughter from the Congo involved integration of the newest member of our family into our existing family structure. We already had 2 daughters (ages 6 & 4), both adopted from China, and they have a very close relationship. Having already been sisters for 2 ½ years, they had developed a rich history of experiences. Their sisterly bond is very strong and they love to play together. They also had a common language and culture. When our new daughter (age 5) joined our family, she lacked their history and was unfamiliar with the language and culture of her new sisters. Additionally, she had very little understanding of how a healthy family functioned. We spent much time praying about how to make sure our new daughter felt like she was a part of our family and how to help all three girls form strong sibling bonds quickly.
To this end, we planned tangible ways to make family bonding a priority. We formed the idea of “Wiggins Team Activities.” For months, we planned our days around making sure that we incorporated team-building activities. During these activities, we would all put our hands in the middle of a circle and yell “Goooooo Wiggins Team.” This little cheer and these activities became the central focus of our family for several months. Even on rough days, when the language barrier was difficult or we didn’t feel like a family or discipline was hard, we made sure to include these activities. There were several types of team-building activities that helped our girls to bond.
First, outward symbols seemed to mean a lot to the girls. Before we met our new daughter, we bought 3 matching fleece jackets for the girls. These jackets became strong symbols of togetherness for the girls. For the first several days, the girls were reluctant to even take them off. They also had a set of matching shirts that they wore whenever they could. In fact, in most of the photos we have from the months after our family grew, the girls are either wearing their matching jackets or matching monkey shirts. Most strangers we met automatically assumed they were sisters, even though they looked nothing alike. These comments from others really mattered to the girls.
We created family activities
that helped create the image of us as a team. One favorite was playing the board game Perfection as a team. This game requires no language and utilizes cooperation, rather than competition. Jigsaw puzzles and Follow the Leader also work for this goal.
Finally, we tried to create a new shared history as a family so that we quickly had many family memories
as a family of five. Family outings (to restaurants, theater performances, parks) gave our Congolese daughter new experiences and gave them all stories to remember. Family movie nights were a big hit. We created small new traditions, like make-your-own-pizzas on Sundays.
Through God’s grace and the prayers and help of many people, our girls are well-bonded. They are fiercely loyal to one another and play together well. They have now created their own shared history
, full of 9-months full of shared memories. Many of their favorite memories involve the Wiggins Team activities from their first months as sisters.