In the world of adoptions, any child past the age of a toddler is considered “older”. Once a child hits ages three or four, their chances of getting adopted decrease dramatically. The odds continue to decline every year that the children remain in the foster system. If a child is not adopted by the time they are seven or eight, it is basically certain that they will never be adopted. Instead, these children just age out of the foster system. This is one of the reasons that adopting an older child is encouraged by many agencies.

People favor adopting babies and younger children for a number of reasons. First, an older child means that parents get less years with them, maybe getting 10 instead of 17. Second, many parents are concerned about the amount of history that a child has before entering their household. While these concerns are understandable, the concerns are typically not justified. Read on to learn some tips for adopting an older child and how to help them settle into their new lives.

  1. Therapy is for everyone.

Many people view therapy s a treatment or solution for when things get bad. However, pre-emptive therapy can be extremely helpful in a number of situations. Studies show that it is particularly effective when adopting an older child. Experts suggest having a family therapist set up before the child comes home. Therapy helps the child understand how the adoptive parents communicate and vice versa. Additionally, while the state of Florida provides histories on each child, it is sometimes impossible to know their parental history. Additionally, many private adoption agencies don’t provide full histories for each child. For most mental illnesses, there is a genetic component, so having a child in therapy can prevent future issues as well.

  1. Use positive parenting methods.

While introducing a child to a new home, it is best to use positive reinforcement rather than punishment. A new home, new family, and new life is all very overwhelming for anybody, let alone a child. Give him or her time to settle in the new rules and routine. This is especially important for international adoptions, as the cultural shift can be jarring. The positive reinforcement can be as small as saying “Good job!” or something more exciting like taking them out to get ice cream or a dinner they want.

  1. Keep the child informed.

An important part of a child’s first day home is simplicity. Stick to a simple and easy version of the normal family routine. Give the child regular updates on what is coming up next so nothing catches them off guard. For example: “We eat lunch at noon, which is in 15 minutes, so playtime will be over then.” Not only does this help the child start to adjust to their new home, it gives them a sense of routine. It also helps the adoptive parents integrate the child into their daily routine easier. Remember that it isn’t just the little one who is getting new family members, the adults are too!