Debbie is the mother of two children adopted at an older age. She posted the following in a group for those considering older child adoption. She has allowed me to share on my blog as a resource.
In light of current events in my life, I’ve engaged in a great deal of soul-searching about our older child adoptions, and the effect on our family and marriage. I thought, what would I want to share, what things do I feel we did “right” vs “wrong”, what would we have done different knowing what we know now? What did we learn (or being quite frank, mostly me through these groups, reading, research, etc) from these last five years? So here goes…
1. Adopting an older child means bringing a person into your home whose personality is SET. One must be willing to take them as they ARE, not how you hope they will be.
2. Understand with older kids, healthy physically does mean healthy emotionally.
3. Don’t make your current children or yourself “act better” than usual to make things “easier” for the new child; be natural from the start.
4. Files are meant to promote the child, so they will often embellish or even eliminate the truth. Read between the lines. Be skeptical, yet hopeful.
5. The more information you can gather, the more people who’ve met the child, the more pictures and video you can obtain, the better.
6. Before you travel, discuss and write down a plan if x, y, or z happens. Decide you are a parenting TEAM. If you have different parenting styles, discuss it, hash it out. A teen will test you, figure out if you can be “played” against one another. Older kids come from a place of survival in a harsh system, no matter how “good” the orphanage is. Think about whether your marriage can take it…or not.
7. Support each other, especially if the child prefers one over the other. Listen. Don’t “check out” of parenting.
8. Understand this may be the hardest thing you might have ever done. There will be days you are on your knees in either prayer or thankfulness, often in the same day or even hour.
9. Your other kids still need you too. They are adjusting as well to the new dynamic.
10. Have some basic rules in place from Day 1, especially in regards to electronics, the internet, and QQ (a Chinese app kind of like Facebook). Monitor communication if you can until you can be sure it is healthy communication.
I can look back now and see all the moments we could have handled better but I can also see how hard we tried as well. Our efforts were mostly rejected by our son adopted at age 13, but we and he survived (he lives on his own now and we communicate), and went on to apply all that we learned with our new daughter (adopted at age 9), who is amazing by the way! We chose not to adopt a teen again, having learned where our personal strengths and weaknesses lie.
I hope these words are helpful in some small way; I just wanted to share my thoughts.