Adopting a child over the age of 4 can present you with some challenges you may not experience when adopting an infant. Your child may have memories of their birth parents. This inconsistency of authority and direction can cause behavioral problems while adjusting to a new family. In addition, they might be able to understand what adoption is and may have a negative view of it.
While adopting a child over the age of 4 can be challenging, it is important that you do the best you can as a parent to help create a positive environment for building healthy relationships. Let's take a look at some ways you can put this into practice.
Don’t Just Listen, But Try to Understand Your Child
If your child was left with trauma from their life before, they might not be able to effectively communicate their needs or emotions. Try to observe how your child expresses themselves, so you can better recognize how they are feeling based on their behaviors. If you are able to understand them better, then you can help solve their problems more efficiently. Having patience is key, because your child may have unfavorable tendencies, such as a quick temper or defiant attitude.
Depending on their previous experiences, they may view adults as untrustworthy and undependable. If they have previously moved around a lot, they might have trouble viewing your home as permanent and be resistant to bonding. Show them you can be trusted by keeping yourself emotionally and physically available. Respond to their needs and requests as often as possible and avoid ignoring them or saying you are too busy. They could choose to open up to you at any time.
Start Parenting Right Away
You might feel like you shouldn’t discipline your child out of fear that it could affect your ability to build a relationship with them, but this could harm your relationship by spoiling the child and withholding guidance.
Give them the support they need to make good decisions by setting rules and building clear expectations, so they can understand the consequences of their actions. This will help develop balance in your family and provide the guidance they need as they develop.
Get Support When You Need It
Adoption can be challenging, and without family members or friends that are experiencing the same circumstances as your family, it can leave you feeling alone. Don’t be afraid to seek out support. Surround yourself with adoptive parents who may experience similar issues to yourself.
There are a large number of support groups for adoptive families with all kinds of different needs, including transracial adoption, lgbt adoption, open adoption, and more.
Your child might also benefit from a support group with children their own age. Being around peers who have similar experiences might make them feel more comfortable as they adjust to a new family.
Finding people that share in your experience can support you in ways that other people in your life may not be able to, such as providing advice and resources that could help your family. Make this journey the best it can be for your family.