The first couple of months with newly adopted older kids (kids past infancy) from foster care or international adoption can be a challenge for both the child and the family. Everyone’s life has been turned topsy-turvy and no one is at his or her best.

Easing the transition to your home for your newly adopted older child.

From the child’s point of view, adoption means a new house, new parents, maybe new siblings, new bed, new school, new rules, new expectations, and on and on.

From the parent’s point of view, there is everyone adjusting to a new role, more food to cook, more laundry to do, more sibling squabbles, learning how to parent a new child, and on and on.

It’s amazing any of us ever make it past the first week!

A smooth transition home doesn’t ensure a bump-free first couple of months, but it sure helps. Here are a few tips from our interview with Dr. Victor Groza, author of Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four* to ease the way when adopting an older child.

1. Take it Slow.

Ideally, you want to transition slowly following this pattern, if possible. If it is not possible, as is often the case in international adoption, then try to mimic it as close as possible.

  • Start visitations in the child’s space (home or orphanage). Your goal is to learn as much as possible about your new child’s environment and routine (sleep and eating routines, favorite foods, what toys she likes, etc.).
  • Move visitations to a neutral space, such as a park. Spend time getting to know your new child.
  • Move visitations to your home. Try to build as many of her routines into your family routine as possible.
  • Start with short visits, but increase the time with each visit.

2. Become a Routine Detective.

Talk with the family the child is currently living with or orphanage worker and ask questions about routines, favorite foods, and what works in calming him. If you are traveling abroad to pick up your child, consider stocking up on her favorite food to bring home. Once home, find a source for continuing to buy some of her favorite foods for as long as possible.

If adopting from foster care, find out how the child’s foster mom or birth mom makes his favorite mac & cheese or at the very least, which brand he prefers. What is her bedtime routine? What is she afraid of?

The more information you have, the more you can try to replicate his routines once home. And the more things are similar, the smoother the transition.

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Practical Solutions to Typical Food Issues for adopted children.

3. Ask Questions.

Get as much information as possible on the child’s past life. Read the child’s complete file, not the summary. Speak to her former foster parent. We have a list of 23 questions you should ask before accepting a placement.

4. Be flexible.

We can’t promise you that the transition will go exactly as you anticipate, in fact, we can promise you that it will not. You need to plan on being flexible. Set your expectations for what you will get done very low for the first couple of months. A great day is one where most people get fed and everyone survives. Things will start improving as everyone settles into the new normal.

What did you do to smooth the transition home with adopted kids?

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Image credit: @lbyper; Michigan Municipal League