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Successful Older Child Adoption Parenting Traits

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All parenting is challenging. Adoptive parenting, however, adds additional challenges. I'm an adoptive parent, founder of a support group, writer, therapeutic tutor, and manager of a large website. Through these experiences I've met many parents faced with challenging situations regarding their older adopted children. How they face and conquer these issues is often dependent upon their inherent or learned ability to incorporate the following traits and abilities into their parenting approaches.

Teacher

All parents need to teach and guide their children, but parents of older adopted children are faced with additional teaching situations. Older adopted children arrive into our families needing to be taught new things, and un-taught poor habits. Using examples storytelling, books, role-playing and more, you'll teach them about families, chores, consequences, affection, strangers, playing, emotions, grief, and more.

Student

You'll think you've learned and read a lot before your child gets home. But after your child is home, you'll discover gaps in your knowledge and need to join on-line support groups, talk with other parents, and read and read. As a student-parent, you may need to learn about childhood grieving, learning differences, emotional disorders, the impact of early neglect, medications, blending past and present, and more.

Researcher

You may be lucky enough to parent an older adopted child with no major issues or differences. However, most children adopted from foster care or international orphanages, arrive home with varying issues to be sorted out. You'll find that the professionals that you seek assistance from will often be less familiar with these issues than you are. Many parents of older adopted children, through intense research, become the "experts" on the issues relating to their children. The parents then use that knowledge to search out the correct experts, or even to educate the professionals.

Fun and silly

Parenting brings out feelings of annoyance, frustration, and anger. Adoptive parents of older children are often faced with very challenging behaviors. An ability to laugh and be silly will help keep your sanity, and is a huge boon to creating strong attachment between you and your child.

Adaptable

Your child will upset every plan and schedule you had. You'll need to have, or find the ability to adapt and change as your child grows, learns new things, and needs additional support.

Strong inner core

Family and friends may not support your decision to adopt. Schools may not understand your child's issues. Friends may desert you when they realize the depth of an issue you're dealing with. You need to be strong for you and strong for your child.

Spiritual

Whatever or whoever you believe in, spirituality plays an important part in parenting older adopted children. Spirituality comes into play before adoption when you make the decision about "is this the child for me?" It's critical later when you're dealing with emotional or behavioral issues. It sustains you when friends and family don't support you.

Conviction

Whatever issues you face with your older adopted child, you need a conviction that it will work out. That the issue WILL be resolved. That you WILL find the support you need. That your child WILL heal. Anything less than complete conviction will lessen your dedication and drain your energy. Your child needs to feel and see this conviction in order to grow and heal.

Commitment

THE most critical trait is commitment. You need to be committed to finding solutions. Committed to helping your child. And most importantly, committed to your child, no matter how they differ from your pre-adoption expectations of them.

Every parent is different and every older adopted child is different. However, having and/or learning these traits will help create strong, successful older adoptive families.


[Susan Ward, founder of Heritage Communications, maintains Older Child Adoption Online Magazine. This regularly updated website includes articles, personal insights, links, books and more. There are special sections on single parenting, reactive attachment disorder, and "Adopted Just Like Me for Kids." Susan is also mama to Hannah, age 9, adopted at age 6 from Russia.]

Credits: Susan Ward

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