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March 2021Vol. 22, No. 3Tips for Helping Older Children and Teens Adjust to Adoptive Homes

When integrating an older child into their home, adoptive families can use several strategies to ease the transition. While necessities such as food, shelter, and education are all important, there are various other areas of focus that can help an older child or teen adjust to their new home.

The AdoptUSKids article "How to Help an Older Child or Teen Adjust to Your Home" shares the following tips for helping adopted children acclimate:

  • Be trustworthy. Because adopted children might not have previously had trustworthy adults in their lives, it is important that new adoptive parents tell the truth, behave predictably, and admit when they make mistakes.
  • Communicate expectations. Clearly explain household rules and think about making changes that will help the new child feel more comfortable.
  • Encourage honesty. Families can promote positive communication by encouraging children to express their thoughts and feelings. When listening, parents should respond without judgement and without taking the child's words personally.
  • Give them alone time. Alone time can give a child a chance to relax and express their emotions in private.
  • Be open-minded and accepting. It's important to prioritize relationship-building before attempting to correct bad habits, such as inappropriate language. 
  • Let them be a kid. Some children who enter the child welfare system have faced more responsibilities and hardships that other kids their age. New families should be aware of this and parent to their child's needs, not their age.
  • Serve familiar food and make food available. A child might have eaten different foods or had limited access to food before they were adopted.
  • Plan for a good night's sleep. Some children might not be used to having their own room, or they might have certain bedtime rituals that are comforting.
  • Provide opportunities for therapy. There are various group, family, and individual therapy options for adopted children that families can discuss with their social worker.

To learn more, read "How to Help an Older Child or Teen Adjust to Your Home."