Bringing home an older child

If you intend to adopt, consider an older child. India Parenting provides the rationale.

Adopting a child is a serious and lifelong commitment. But adoption is even more challenging when it involves an older child, who is a full-fledged individual with a definite past, a family history or the lack of it and, of course, a set behavioral pattern.
When such a child comes home, the adoptive parents have to have an extraordinary readiness to accept the child unconditionally, notwithstanding the child's past emotional baggage. The adopted child may come from an orphanage or a foster home with painful memories or a street shanty. But now that the child is in the family, a new chapter begins. 

Why would anyone adopt an older child?

  1. A readymade toddler saves the parents from the rigmarole of late night feeds and nappy changes. A young infant is obviously less self-sufficient than a relatively older child.  The initial years of child rearing are indeed taxing and therefore adoption of an older child can be viewed as a panacea. 

  3. Love for children prompts a couple/single person to bring home an older child despite having a biological offspring. The entry of an older child gives readymade company to the natural child, and at the same time fulfills the adoptive parent's desire for social service.

  5. A parent gets to choose an ideal/dream child. People have various preferences with regard to children. For example, some people are not comfortable with infants. Some want to adopt shy girls. Some like talkative boys. Some people choose children as per their nationalities and religion. Since these preferences may not always be entertained in the natural childrearing process, adoption of an older child provides the solution.

  7. A visit to an orphanage can involuntarily create fond feelings for a particular child. Or a special liking for a particular parentless child in the neighbourhood may lead to adoption. Or a couple/single person might specifically zero in on an older child, in order to check out if the child fits into their lifestyle or not.

Considering the variety of possible reasons for adopting an older child, every person who is adopting should know the particular reason for which he or she is bringing a full-fledged child home. 

Once the reason is clear, an adoptive parent has to help the child adjust to a new set of circumstances new people, smells, routines, rules and probably even food. The parent has to be ready for mood shifts, temper tantrums and hypersensitivity of the adopted child. However, such withdrawal symptoms are normal, at least initially. Every child devises his or her own survival tactics, more so an adopted one. Therefore, an adoptive a parent must allot enough time for adjustments. Most importantly, parents should not expect a feeling of gratitude from the child, mainly because they have not 'favoured' the child by bringing him/her home. They should aim for a mutually fulfilling relationship, which takes a long time to develop.

What should a parent do to help an adopted child?

  1. Prepare yourself completely to expect the unexpected. Educate yourself about the ill effects of long-term abuse and neglect. Read books on adoption and family adjustments. Try to meet adoptive families and join a support group. Bringing home an older child may need a lot of attitude building.

  2. You should know your adopted child's family history, health records, interests and some special memories. 

  3. When your 'new' child first enters your home, do not dramatize the situation. Retain normalcy and simplicity. The child should not be showered with unnatural love on the first day. Let a bond develop naturally.

  4. Do not participate in family gatherings unless the child is comfortable with the inner family core. 

  5. A little bit of cuddling, snuggling and cooing will go a long way, because it is quite likely that your 'older' child has missed out on these special moments. Provide enough time for your child in addition to toys, books and educational tools, to keep him engaged.

  6. Help your child work out his pain. Let him talk about his worst fears, happiest moments and insecurities. Share your past with your child. Rationalise your reason for adoption. 

  7. Help your child rebuild dreams of a healthy family life. After all, blood is not always thicker than water.

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