SELF HELP RESOURCE - Parenting / General


The process of adoption requires a lot of thought on the part of the prospective adoptive family. When it comes to the choice of adopting an older child, it does require some amount of preparation. If you are considering adopting a child older than 2 to 3 years you could face a unique set of challenges and issues. Adopting older children is rewarding, but it comes with its own set of considerations.

It will take the older child a longer time to settle in and accept you as his parents and you have to be very patient with this process. Here are some issues that may come with adopting an older child.

Do Your Homework

Read up on the region and culture the child is from so that you can make the child feel comfortable when you bring her home. If he or she speaks a different language, then try and learn enough to communicate with the child. Check with the adoption agency or foster home about the food preferences of the child so that the diet is familiar to you. Older children may take some time to adjust to your culture and habits so it would help if you meet them halfway. It is also important for you to check for any history of abuse or neglect so that you can help your child to work through their anger, abandonment and grief issues. Please do take professional help from a therapist for this.

Dealing With the Child's Emotions

There may be a strong likelihood that older children placed for adoption might well have faced some rejection earlier and hence they may have a strong feelings of insecurity. He may have seen other children being adopted before him or might have been in and out of a few foster homes. It is going to be difficult for the child to trust you and believe that this is for real and that his stay with you is permanent. He will be very scared and vulnerable but may not express it. Instead there may be tantrums and episodes of acting out. Instead of being thankful for getting adopted, the child might appear quite ungrateful and sullen. Do not take this behavior personally. You may have to be extremely patient while dealing with these episodes. So if you arm yourself with prior information about the child's emotional make-up, you will be prepared.

Allow Time for Separation Issues and Grieving

The older child has built relationships in the adoptive or foster home and it will be difficult for him to adjust to the new people in his life. Give enough space to the child for grieving the loss and be prepared for different expressions of grief. Some children may just cry while some may become completely withdrawn or angry and defiant. Just support them through this phase and they will soon become attached to you once they know that you are not going anywhere. Their grief may also manifest in the form of nightmares or an upset stomach. The grieving process may sometimes take a few months so just be patient, calm and loving. Don't push them to be cheerful and happy-go-lucky.

Keep Things Low-Key

Make sure you do not overwhelm the child as every experience may be new and scary. Try to postpone visits from family and friends till you and your partner establish a rapport with the child. Try and limit showering him with gifts and visits to people's homes or having a baby sitter immediately. If you are working take adequate time off to spend with the child so that he is reassured that you are the primary caregiver.

Pushing Boundaries

It may be a little more challenging for you to lay down rules and define boundaries. While the orphanages may have some rules, the older child may be used to some amount of independence. So getting them to accept authority may prove difficult. They may be defiant and want to disobey your rules. Be patient but firm about boundaries because they will then know that you care enough about them to lay down rules.

Do Not Expect Instant Bonding

Affection and love will develop but slowly. The older child may have his own model of a parent in mind and till he gets convinced of your presence in his life and your unconditional love, he is not going to let you into his heart soon. So try not to force your attention but keep telling him how much you love him and demonstrate by constant physical contact like hugging him or tucking him into bed. If he shies away from physical contact, respect it but continue to tell him how much you care. Constant validation is very important to make him feel secure and loved.

Stick to Routines

Older children from orphanages are usually quite used to a daily routine. It might be a good idea to follow a regular routine in your home for sleeping, eating, playing etc. It allows them a feeling of security and comfort if they can count on some amount of certainty in their lives.

It may take a while before your older adoptive child accepts you as his parents and feels comfortable enough to be at home with you. But love will definitely grow. Sure it will have its ups and downs, just as it would with a biological child. There may be moments when you wonder if you did the right thing. But when he finally does allow the warmth of your love to envelop him and feels secure, happy and knowing that you are not giving up on him, the rewards that come are worth the effort.

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