When an older adopted or foster child enters your home, they bring a lifetime of experiences with them, many of which may lead them to feel uncomfortable or awkward in his or her new home, especially if they are naturally shy and introverted. Change may be a way of life, but not always a welcome one. You will want to do whatever you can to provide these children with a sense of belonging. Here are some ideas to help:

  1. A welcome home party can be a terrific idea depending on the child. You’ll need to judge for yourself whether or not you think a warm homecoming gathering is appropriate.
  2. Giving the child a feeling of inclusion is key. Automatically include them in the simplest of household tasks and activities such as adding them to the “chores/to do” list (yes!), taking them to practices, rehearsals, games, et cetera, and making sure they can give input in things such as planning menus and what to watch on family movie nights.
  3. If possible, hang something with his or her name on it on the bedroom door or give them an item with his or her name featured on it.
  4. Ask them to help develop a daily plan that includes his or her own preference of routine. As these are older children, you can be more flexible with things such as bedtime.
  5. Ask the child if he or she has a special item with them, and ask them to tell you about it. Make sure they know that you realize how important his or her story is, and, in turn, you and the other members of the household can share personal stories as a way of getting to know each other.
  6. Pets can often be great icebreakers! Both children and adults can often warm up to pets much more quickly than to people, so if you have a family pet, by all means, introduce them.
  7. Make sure that you are aware of any cultural and/or religious traditions the child has and recognize it as a part of who they are and where they have come from.
  8. Familiarize yourself with any special days or dates that are meaningful to the child. Honor that meaning.
  9. Ensure that other children in the home get to know the “new kid” in the family and that they are including him or her in their daily activities and routines, particularly in worlds where other children are heavily involved. For example, if possible, have the other kids in the home introduce the adopted/foster child around at school or at soccer games, et cetera.
  10. While you should make sure the child feels included and a part of the family, recognize for whom they are and what makes them unique. This means that in addition to providing a warm and welcoming environment, you should give them the time and space to make the big adjustment. Bonding doesn’t happen overnight, so if he or she distances himself or herself at first, it’s okay! Give some time, let them be themselves, and be accepting.
  11. Above all, keep the channels of communication open! Let your child know that it’s safe to talk to you and open up to you.