Older Child Adoption
Adopting an older child brings unique rewards but it also presents unique challenges. All adopted children have to deal with the loss of birth family - even those adopted at birth. But kids adopted when they are older also experience the loss of foster families or orphanage friends and caregivers. In addition, many older children have watched as other children are adopted and they're left behind, wondering why no one wants to adopt them. These losses and the feelings of rejection can be a lot for a young child to process. As a result, many older children come into adoption feeling wary and unsure. They need time to adjust, to feel safe and loved, and - eventually - to bond with their new families.
The time needed for a child to bond and attach can vary greatly. It requires a lot of love and patience. Some children will test the boundaries as well as the family's commitment to them. They may "act out" or defy the authority of the parents. While this testing is normal for any child, it often carries more weight with an older adopted child. An older child may also struggle with feelings of betrayal of her former family or caregivers as they bond with a new family. They will need to be reassured that loving and bonding with a new family does not mean they no longer love or are connected to their former birth or foster family. They need to understand that they may love and be connected to many people and many families. There is no limit to the number of people they may love!
In addition to bonding and attachement issues, some older adopted children may have a background of neglect or abuse. In some cases, professional assistance may be needed to help these kids work through their past and any post-traumatic stress they may have. Children are resilient beings. With enough love and reassurance, even the most hurt child can heal.
Adopting an older chid can be a bumpy path and there will likely be moments of doubt in both the children's and the families' minds. But with time, love and patience, older children will learn to trust and will bond and attach to the family. That hard-won bond is one of the strongest bonds a family can experience and certainly one of the most rewarding!
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