When making the decision to add to your family through adoption, you will likely look at several different types of adoption. If adopting an older child through foster care or international adoption is something you are considering and you already have other children in your household, there are probably a lot of things you are wondering. Will adopting an older child affect your other children? The short answer is yes, but there is a lot more to it than just a one word answer. Just because there is an effect, does not mean it is a bad decision. Here are some things I learned by adding an older child into our family.
No matter how much you prepare for trauma, neglect, behavioral issues, or other crisis type scenarios, other things you weren’t expecting will pop up. The unknown factor can and will affect everyone in the household, including the other children. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if those unknowns aren’t easy to process. There is no shame in admitting you aren’t equipped for it all.
Children feel stress too, and they have stressor just like you. Not only do they feel stress, but they have a difficult time processing that stress. Adding an older child into your home who comes with a different background, lifestyle, and experiences can be stressful for everyone as you all adjust. The children already in the household may need time to adjust. Make them aware it is safe to come to you and know they are heard if they have concerns they want to talk to you about. Make time for them so they can air their stress and have help processing it.
The time that it takes to integrate an older child into your home is much like a baby. That said, while children may act out when a new baby arrives out of desire for attention, the time that is being dedicated to the new older child may create different jealous emotions. Make sure you set aside one-on-one time with each child so they don’t feel like all your time is being dedicated to the new child. Feeling like they have lost their time with you, may not just cause jealously, but also resentment and other negative feelings toward their new sibling.
When you think of an older child, you think of all the things they should know by that age based on your own personal experience or when you taught your other children things. When adopting older children, sometimes it’s difficult to wrap your head around the fact that they don’t always have the same social skills, personal hygiene skills, or understand how to do simple tasks or chores. The other kids may be unprepared to deal with it. Teaching an older child a task they should have learned at a very young age can feel odd and make the other children in the household feel uncomfortable to witness. It can be especially frustrating if it infringes on their personal space or belongings. Make sure you set guidelines early on and tell the children your expectations often and in a way that is easy to understand. If you don’t want to single out any children, sometimes having a “family meeting” can be beneficial.
There are days that I question my own sanity and why we made the decision to add an older child to our family, but then other days I am so abundantly proud of my imperfect family that I want to shout my love for them from the rooftops. Not every day isn’t smooth sailing, but what family has that? Being prepared for just about any outcome and rolling with the punches is the approach we take. It helps us not only survive, but thrive. The kids figure things out and we give them far less credit than they deserve on what they are capable of handling. Their problem solving skills that they are learning will be utilized for the rest of their life because of our family structure. Be a positive role model, but don’t be afraid to be flawed. After all, we are only human.