Having an older adopted child myself, I have always been interested in hearing the perspectives of the child on their adoption, particularly those that were adopted as an older child through international adoption. Below are some ideas for parents adopting an older child internationally that came straight from these young adults.
- Changing the child’s name: Often the child will like to keep part of their original name. Older kids also like having a say in their name, perhaps allow them to pick between 2 names. Some children may want to continue to be called by their original name or nickname.
- Telling the child about their new family: Send a photo album to your new child to show them their new family, home, pets, and school. Include a short letter explaining your family and how you will come to get them.
- Don’t be too strict on your child while still in the country: American ideas of how a child should act and show respect may not be the same as other cultures. Try to get to know you child before working on behaviors that are not harmful. An example is in China the children are expected to take care of their parents. A child might jump ahead of their parents to take care of handling a sales clerk, whereas the US parents might see this behavior as a challenge of their authority.
- Bringing new siblings: If the child has new siblings close to their age, it might help for them to be along on the trip so the new child can see how they interact with the parents. If there are much younger siblings along though, the child’s culture might have taught them the need to take care of younger siblings. In this case the child might try to take care of the younger ones when you the parent should be taking care of him/her.
- Bringing a piece of the child’s life home with them: do you have a favorite object from your childhood that you’ve kept? Your new child might also want to keep something personal from their homeland such as an article of clothing, a favorite toy or book. One young lady I talked to expressed regret at not having anything she owned from her previous life.
- Connecting with friends: your older child may have some strong connections with friends back at the orphanage or foster family. Some adoptive parents want to immediately cut all ties from a child’s past, but this tends to make an already difficult time harder for the child. If you child wants to call a friend of theirs while still in the country, why not help them?
- Public displays of affection: We know you can’t wait to hug and smother your new child when you first meet, but this may make your new child feel uncomfortable in the beginning. Some good ideas to start the bonding process slowly would be to hold hands, put your hand on the child’s shoulder, touch the child’s face or comb their hair.
These first ideas deal with the time before and during travel. Stay tuned for a follow up blog with more ideas once your child is home.