Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Adopting an older child.

Over the years we have worked with quite a number of families who have opened their hearts to older children.  I have been in contact with many of these families, keeping track of how they are doing, monitoring, rooting for them and since its older child week on the asiawaitingchild.wordpress.com blog, I thought I would share some of my observations with you.

In general our parents tell me the older child fit into their family beautifully.  In birth order or out of birth order, they do well.  Children who come home as an older child will be learning a new culture, language and family routines which lets everyone jump in to help them.  There is great bonding in helping a child do a task. It lets the brothers and sisters interact over an activity, not just talking.  It also establishes cooperation and a positive footing.  One wonderful adoptive mom told me she begins her simple routines before they even get home.  Like making the bed together, brushing teeth together.  When the family goes out, each child gets something to hold like the map, the water bottles, the tissues. All working together, all part of the team. All these normal acts combine together to help everyone part of the whole.

In general families report to me while going through the first weeks and months home, language is an issue. Less and less families are challenged now because of translation programs.  These translation programs are not perfect and they can cause misunderstandings so look for a bewildered look on your child's face and maybe try a second app or gestural communication if you think there is an issue.


The other questions and concerns I hear are about sensory issues and the child being very active.  Sensory sensitivities are going to come up.  If you never go to a beach, and are suddenly walking on sand, you are going to feel funny.  You wont understand how hot sand can get and may not want to step off the boardwalk if you try it once on hot sand.  If you have never washed with a wash cloth it may feel too rough on your face. As a parent you need to look at what sensory activity a child is having trouble with and consider if they possibly had no experience with that activity before.  You can slowly introduce the activity and see how they do.  

Many parents say their child was excessively active once they were united in China.  These kids need loads of physical activity on their trip.  Activity(exercise) calms us all.  These kids are going through such a big change some physical exercise will help your child be calm and more relaxed.  Remember exercise, endorphins help us all feel better.  Take a walk, go to the park and play with your older child, swing on the swings.  Its a great sensory activity as well.

Many parents adopting an older child also tell me, their child did better with a routine, schedule and expected outcomes.  They used the guide to tell the child a schedule.  This is what we will do in the morning, and after lunch etc.  The more the child knew the better able they we able to handle the events of the day.  when these families are home they establish a beginning routine almost right away.  Like we put on PJs and brush our teeth before bed.  It helps everyone be on the same page and as language is developing, it lets them feel like they know what to do.


So these are some helpful things parents have shared with me.  I am sharing them with you because adopting an older child is such a wonderful thing. This is not intended to minimize the challenges of adopting an older child. There are many challenges and issues, but it is so worth it. Parents report this again and again.

These children are great and need loving families willing to accept and nurture them.  To help them bloom and be even more amazing than they already are.