Adopting an older child can definitely has its own blessings and challenges than compared to infant adoption. Many adoptive parents choose to adopt older children for many different reasons. Some may feel that older children are often forgotten about and there is a greater need to find these children permanent homes or because it simply fits their family dynamic better. Adopting an older child is considered to be when a family adopts at the age of three and over.
Every child that is adopted comes with a past, no matter what age they are adopted. However, the older a child is, the more history they bring. Older children will probably have a strong recollection of their history – whether it was having lived in foster care, orphanages, or with birth parents. Their pre-adoptive experiences could leave the child with some unresolved emotional issues. These could include the loss of a birth family or siblings, change in culture and religion, or the effect of witnessing violence, substance abuse, etc. You may find that transitioning with older children is a little more difficult. Below are some really great tips to making a smooth transition when brining an older child into your family.
5 Tips for a Smooth Transition:
Like infant adoption, it is equally important that you and your family are prepared. There are a number of ways to do so. Immerse yourself in the process. You can read books, attend classes, and educate yourself on the child’s background in which they are coming from like their religion, heritage, and culture. A really great way to learn about what to expect when bringing your child home is by attending classes. Adoptions From The Heart offers a variety of classes for pre adoptive parents in many different locations along the east coast. To find a class offered at an office near you visit the AFTH calendar of events: Another great way is to connect with a child therapist in your so you have a local resource that can help you and especially your child with the transition.
Here is a list of great resources for adopting and older child:
- Adopting the Older Child- By Claudia Jewett
- Attaching in Adoption – By Deborah Gray
- Parenting the Hurt Child – Gregory Peck
- “What we wish we would have known” by Judy and Sara Myerson
One of the most difficult aspects of parenting an older child is the patience it takes for a mutually satisfying attachment to occur. It is important to not overwhelm your child. It is true that it may take your child a good amount of time until he/she feels like a part of your family. The time cannot be predicted and truly depends on the child, and the situation that occurred before the adoption. It is very helpful if you understand your child’s pre-placement story and are prepared to encounter their child’s stories from before. For example, in the child’s pre-placement environment they might have all eaten dinner in front of the TV. If your family eats together around the table, it may be an adjustment that has to be made. Having patience and understanding the differences will help you explain how your family operates. Your child could also have many difficult questions regarding their adoption. Visit our blog and read about how to answers some of the common questions.
The Honey Moon Phase:
Just like newlyweds, your child and family could experience a “Honeymoon Phase.” When the child comes home he/she may be shy and reserved, or happy and excited. For the weeks or months following placement, it is common for the child to be on their best behavior, known as the “honeymoon stage.” As the family becomes more comfortable with one another, it is common for the child to start testing boundaries. This can all stem from the grief of the loss of old traditions, family dynamic etc. It is important to be aware of this stage, so that you and your family can prepare. In some cases, therapy could be recommended. Although the honeymoon stage can be a bit scary sounding, grief is generally a positive sign. It shows that the child was able to form a strong attachment to the life that they had before the adoption, and that they will be able to form an attachment again, to their new family.
Show How Much You Care:
While telling your child how much they mean to you is important, showing them how much you care can go a long way. There are many things that you can do to show that you care about your child such as:
- Cooking their favorite dinner: especially if they have a different culture. Preserving a piece of the child’s previous life can really help make the transition smoother
- Display art projects or good test grades on the fridge
- Create family memories – take the time to do an activity that the child loves to do. This could be going to a sporting event, going to the park, walking the dog etc.
- Be open to incorporating some of the child’s traditions, wishes, and rituals into your family’s life
It’s ok to set limits. Sometimes new adoptive parents are afraid to say “no” to their child because they feel like so much has been taken from them already. Discipline does not mean punishment. It is important to set boundaries to make a smooth transition. Boundaries will give your child responsibility and accountability, which will result in providing structure and stability. To give responsibly you could assign your children chores, set a bed time or a designated time after school for homework.
The best thing to do when adopting an older child is to educate yourself. Books are a great way to learn about not only adopting an older child, but the adoption process in general. It is also beneficial to surround your family with others who have gone through the adoption process as well. Here you will find an instant support group where you will be able to find answers to questions that you may have from families who have first hand experience with adoption, and adopting an older child.
Despite the challenges that stem from adopting and older child, the process can be deeply rewarding for families that have realistic expectations. Adopting older children has many benefits and it is another wonderful way to build and grow your family.