Adopting Out of Birth Order

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In the past, many professionals in the adoption field encouraged adoptive families to adopt within birth order. If a family had existing children, professional recommend those families adopt an infant or a child who was younger that their youngest child already in the home. Changing the birth order of children in families was discouraged because of the thought that it would have psychological effects on the children. However, as time has passed, more social workers and therapists started to switch their point of view on the topic. Today, it is now becoming more common for families to adopt children out of birth order, especially when dealing with foster care adoption and older child adoption. Many parents have successfully integrated older children into their home even if it means the altering the original birth order. For example a family with a 7 and 4 year old adopts a child who is 5. In many cases, how you prepare your existing children, your new adopted child, and yourselves is the key to making a smooth transition. Below are five tips to consider when you make the decision to adopt out of birth order.

Five Tips for Adopting Out of Birth Order:

1). Assign Responsibilities on the basis of ability not age – When adopting out of birth order  it is important as adoptive parents to treat each child as an individual, and assign responsibilities to the children on the basis of ability, rather than age. For example, if a younger sibling is cut out for a babysitting role, let that child take on the responsibly. Don’t feel obligated to give the oldest child that role just because of birth order. Chores are also a great way to assign responsibly to children without having to emphasize age order. Adoptive Families states that, “At the same time, parents have to be conscious of not over-burdening the more mature children in the family, and dispense privileges in the same manner as they do responsibilities.” Have a balance and evenly distributing chores and responsibility among your children is key.

2). Treat your children as individuals – It is important in any family for the children to develop their own interests and find their own hobbies. This will create individuality between siblings. When children in the family start to share hobbies it becomes easier for parents to begin to compare their ability. For example, if both siblings join a soccer team and one begins to excel, the other child could feel left out.  It is also important to remember this in academic situations.  “When older children are adopted, frequent moves in their past can mean academic skills  below the standard for their chronological age.  Comparisons between the academic achievements of children are always inappropriate, but in no case should a younger child be held up as an example to an older brother or sister.” –Adoptivefamilies.com

3). Prepare your children – it is important to help your children understand what it means to not only adopt, but explain to them what it will be like having a sibling that is older or younger than them. If you plan to adopted an older child, it is important to make as smooth a transition with your existing children as possible. Preparing them for this transition will only ease the change in the family dynamic. You can involve your children and think of ways that each child can help their new sibling adapt, and feel like a member of your family. This could be involving the new child in group play dates or  do arts a craft projects together as a family.

4). Keep open lines of communication – prepare yourself for disputes between children. It is common for any child in a family to feel left out at times when a new sibling comes along, not matter what the birth order is. Communicating through the hard times will be a huge tool for you family in older child adoption, and will help you keep a strong bond in your new blended family.

5). Read books on sibling adoption – There are many resources and books available to educate not only adoptive parents, but siblings on adopting out of birth order. In many cases, stories of adopting siblings can assist them understand how their family is going to grow. Creating a Family has a great list of books about sibling adoption, that could help your family when adopting out of birth order!

While changing the birth order of your family through adoption can be challenging, it can also be very rewarding. With more children in the foster care system it is common for many families to follow through with older child adoption, which at times may disrupt the birth order of the family. When adopting out of birth order it is important for adoptive parents to educate themselves on the complications that could occur in the family, rivalries between siblings, and how to not let children feel left out. When adoptive parents learn all of the scenarios that occur when adopting out of birth order, they can teach and prepare their children for the adoption, which will allow a smoother transition of the new adoptive sibling into the family.

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