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Adopting Older Children

Children over the age of two are considered as ‘older children’ for adoption purposes. Adoptive parents in the process of adopting or have recently adopted an older child may want to know more about how to help the child adjust to the new surroundings, new family and new parents. Adoptive parents must remember not to over stimulate their child and give them time to be comfortable with their immediate family and for the first few weeks avoid too many outings or extra activities so that you and your child get more time to know and understand each other. This can be termed as the ‘adjustment period’ for you and your new older child.

Adopting older children and bringing them home is a time of excitement for the new parents. It is a big achievement for them and one of the biggest dreams of their life gets fulfilled. For adoptive parents, it is an occasion fit for lots of celebration and having fun and they want their child to be as excited and filled with happiness as they are. They want to do everything they have planned to do with their child and live their dreams. They may want to take their children to park, to visit grandparents, to restaurants and theatres and throw several parties to welcome them. However, we must remember that children may still not be ready to take it all and may be experiencing ‘sensory overload’.

Your child need few weeks or even months to settle down to new food, new smells of the house, new rules, new traditions, new lifestyle, new habits and in cases of international adoption, new language and new customs. The children need more structure and routine to adjust to the routine of your family. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on time, brushing teeth before going to bed, being read a bedtime story by mom or dad and waking up with a good-morning kiss may be some of the things that they should learn are the routine and so they have to get adjusted to it. There can be weekly activities too such as Fridays are for going out and have fun and we go for a weekend visit to grandparents, every alternated weekends.

Though the children may have reached a certain age physically, living in foster care or orphanages may result in ‘missing’ some developmental, social or psychological milestones. So, treat them as if they are much younger than they actually are and re-parent them like a baby or a toddler to help them bond easily with you. Sing lullabies to your children, rock them and read them nursery rhymes. This also means that you offer them limited choices and do not give them freedom you would have otherwise afforded to children of their age. Play little kid games with them. This will help to feel less stressed and they can live the times that they have missed with their parents or ‘you’.

Multiple placements or bad care giving practices can leave older children scarred and they may have attachment issues. So, implement strategies and tips for such children. This will help the children to heal and facilitate their smooth integration into your home. Try to play games with them and enjoy the time together with your new child by sharing a giggle. This will just strengthen your love for each other. Within a few days, assign little chores for your child that are appropriate for his or her age and maturity and then compliment him or her on completing it. This will make the child feel needed and they will learn to should responsibilities as one of the family.

All children may have different personalities, temperaments and backgrounds but all of them need to be taught the rules. They should know the consequences of breaking the rules such as timeout, removal of privileges or extra chores to be done. Then be consistent on their implementation. Take sometime for yourself too and relax, go for a walk and take a warm shower. If you are tired and frustrated, it is impossible to be a good parent. Adjustment period with your child may last up to six months or even one to two years, so be patient.

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