With every adoption, as with anything worthwhile, there are challenges and rewards. Some families are up for the challenge of adopting an older child, feel called to meet this great need or simply feel that adopting an older child best meets their family’s season of life. Regardless of why, there are certain characteristics consistent in families who are good candidates to adopt an older child or a sibling group with an older child.
While desire to adopt and become a parent is, of course, the primary characteristic needed, there are some traits which seem to stand out in parents with successful older child adoptions. These are: Patience; persistence; being willing to advocate for your child in many areas of life; demonstrate consistency; unconditional love; understanding; reassuring; use open and clear communication strategies; flexible and willing to adjust; fully committed to the adoption process and journey; possess a sense of fairness: having a good sense of humor; determination; have an active lifestyle or one conducive to the child’s age and needs; being open to learn new skills and explore alternatives; being willing to accept and actively seek out parenting assistance and supportive services when needed; being willing to open your heart and your home to change; being willing to take the time to listen to your child; understand how to have fun and become a part of the child’s world; be technologically adept (smart phones, computers, etc.); and be smart enough to recognize that the child’s behaviors are not personally directed at you and that the child’s past experiences and/or current fears greatly influence who they now are.
Parents who choose to adopt an older child know they want a family, but they also want a child who knows that they need them too. Older children available for adoption have usually voiced their desire for a forever family; they just haven’t found one yet. When you both know and accept that you need each other, the adoption becomes a relationship based on understanding and acceptance. You can begin sharing interests and activities from day one, whether those are sports, hobbies, arts, or simply board games. You can immediately begin having fun together-laughing, joking with each other, and building rapport. You both have great hope for the future and are willing to make the relationship a priority.
A parent needs to be willing to make the effort to educate themselves, prepare their support system, examine the school system in their area, be willing to attend family therapy, gather information on agencies and organizations who can help them with parenting and activities for the older child. If your family decides to adopt an older child, it is also important to be flexible with your schedule and lifestyle so a child can enter it and be a true part of it.
More importantly, they need to come into this relationship with love, awe, appreciation, anticipation, excitement, and enjoyment. Adopting an older child is a journey, a developing relationship, and a wonder to behold. It is the opportunity to REALLY positively change a life forever, and more often than not, that changed life is that of the parent.