Facts About Older Child (above the age of 3 years)
Children above the age of 3 years are waiting for families within the USA and many other countries. Often, there is a shorter wait to adopt older children. Although children above the age of 3 years old are strictly catagorized as "older", the true definition of an older child is one that is closer to School-Age. Children 6 years or older have often formed attachments within their instiutions or foster-families. Sometimes these attachments are primarily with another child, one whom they have come to develop a sibling-like relationship with.
Experienced parents and those not wishing to repeat the baby-stage of parenting often find adopting an older child the best fit for their family. Experienced families are couples or individuals who have raised children by birth or adoption already. No other prepartion can compare with the real-world "been there-done that" experience of raising children through the many stages of childhood.
Choosing Older Child Adoption:
Today, many families reach their 40s and 50s with vitality and a desire to continue parenting. It's very common for these families to adopt school-age children and experience the continued joy that children bring to a family. Read some of our hundreds of adoption articles featuring older child adoption, such as: 5 Reasons Why You Should Consider Older Child Adoption, Who Needs Retirement?, or Perfect Timing to get started.
Families that prepare to the greatest extent possible are the most successful in older child adoption. Preparation included working with a good adoption agency that will provide you with pre-adoption educational opportunities, and post-adoption support. Preparation also involves meeting other families who have been through the process of adopting an older child and who are a few years post-adoption. These families can be a great support and source of information! Self-education is extremely important. One source offering excellent material is Adoption Learning Partners.
Older Child (above the age of 3 years) Challenges
Some of the challenges concering adopting a school-age child are universal:
- Grief: A child will leave behind all that is familiar. Food, friends, smells, teachers, language, and culture. And that's just the beginning. Learning how to view adoption from the child's point of view is an essential part of every parent's pre-adoption education.
- Trauma: Adoption is TRAUMATIC for any child. What used to be thought of as "attachment issues" are now known to be a child experiencing trauma and loss. The Connected Child is a short, easy-read that can help any family adopting a child from foster care or an institution.
- Nutritional Needs: Children from difficult backgrounds have specific nutritional needs that must be addressed as soon as possible to promote health and insure that they are receiving the focused nutrients needed to promote proper brain and body growth. The Adoption Nutrition website is a great place to begin to understand these needs.
- Flexible Parent(s): During that first year of transition, older kids need families that have reasonable expectations. Your child may not love you right away, though they may show affection quickly. Your new child will commonly appear much younger than their chronological age. This is common. If there are other children in the family, your new child may or may not 'blend' well at first. This will bring in stress for your other children and for you! It takes TIME, it takes dedication, and entering the relationship with eyes-wide-open and a good support group of other adoptive families is good for everyone.
The greatest challenge in adopting an older child is attachment and bonding of both the child-to-parent AND parent-to-child. A great deal of emphasis is put on the child learning to bond with his or her new family. But the truth is, parents and siblings also require time to attach. Be kind to yourself and know that the love will come.
Adopting an Older Child isn't something to be afraid of. With preparation and planning, your life and the life of a wonderful child waiting for adoption can be deeply enriched.
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