How to Prepare for the Adoption of an Older Child

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Bringing a new person into the family is challenging, but it can be especially tough when you're adopting an older child. Though older children are the right choice for many parents, they come with their own personalities already formed, which can include the effects of neglect, physical or sexual abuse and a general sense of not belonging. Preparing your home and your heart for accepting this child makes things go more smoothly.

  • Review the child's profile. The adoption agency will provide you with a profile of your child that contains important information, such as family details, medical history and notes from a psychologist, if applicable. These give you some insight into the child you're adopting.

  • Read parenting books that apply to you. Something like "Parenting Your Adopted Older Child: How to Overcome the Unique Challenges and Raise a Happy and Healthy Child" by Brenda McCreight, Ph.D., can be helpful to all families adopting older children. If your child is coming to you with a disability, such as Down's syndrome, or severe trauma from her previous home, consult resources that focus on those specifics.

  • Purchase only the basics for his bedroom. It's tempting to go all-out with the decorating when setting up his room, but you want the room to reflect his personality. You might buy furniture, but when it comes to bedding or wall decorations, he'll appreciate having some say.

  • Create a support network for yourself. You won't necessarily have the sleepless nights that someone adopting a baby will have, but you will still have your own unique challenges. It's helpful to have people to turn to for support even before your child comes home. This might be a grandma willing to babysit on a Friday night or a local adoption group with parents who have "been there, done that" and understand your frustrations.

  • Develop some rules. It's helpful to have your child work with you to set the house rules, but you'll also want to plan a few things in advance. If you have a child around 8 years old, for example, you might set bedtime for 8:30, but if you're adopting a teenager, bedtime could be later. Plan for any rules you consider non-negotiable, like no smoking and drinking or no bullying.

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