In previous decades, adopting out of birth order, in other words adopting children out of age order, was frowned upon and heavily dissuaded due to potential impacts this may have upon existing children. However, in cases such as LGBT adoption for example, adoption options may be highly limited, causing same sex parents to grow their families out of birth order.
Adopting out of birth order is still banned within some adoption agencies today, however recent research has been shedding light that negative impacts are definitely not a certainty. In this article we’ll be discussing ways you can navigate the difficult challenge of adopting an older child, when you already have pre-existing younger children.
Preparing your Existing Children
The first, and probably the most obvious step is to prepare your children for the arrival of their new big brother or sister. Emphasise the positives, that they’ll have someone to look out for them and look up to, as well as a new playmate. Most importantly though, listen to what they have to say, and reassure them that they are not being replaced in any way. Gauging your child's reactions and feedback is essential, as it can highlight areas in which you may encounter difficulties, such as jealousy or resentment of the new addition. Finding out these early gives you plenty of time to implement solutions and preventative methods unique to your existing child.
Account for Time to Adjust
Adding a new child to any family can be a huge change to any household. However, when adopting a child out of birth order the change can become magnified. Typically, if you have more than one existing child, the current oldest child will be most affected by the change. They may feel replaced, demoted, or as though they have lost their place as the elder child. This may result in some disruptive behaviour or outbursts. It’s important to let your child express their feelings and process the change in their own way whilst simultaneously reassuring them of their worth.
This may also apply to the newly adopted child, as they may be unsure of their place in the hierarchy of your home. They may feel pressured to act a certain way, or become distressed if they are perceived negatively by their new sibling. Again, providing the new child with reassurance while the dust settles, will help ensure a comfortable transition.
It’s no secret that every child is unique, and particularly within families with age order differences, it is important to celebrate this. Highlight each child's success’ equally, and respect their individuality. Try your best to avoid comparisons between them, to help create an environment of harmony, instead of resentment and division.
While in some cases best avoided, adopting children out of birth order is not as catastrophic as many adoption agencies will lead you to believe. If you find yourself in this position owing to LGBT adoption or adoption involving older parents, there really is no need to despair. Make sure to prepare and reaffirm the positives to your existing children, allow them to express their feelings and reactions, and celebrate each child's unique qualities. Variety is the spice of life, after all.