Tips on How to Successfully Disrupt Birth Order


  1. Focus on the uniqueness of each child regardless of their position in the family. This is good general parenting advice, but it should be an extra focus when you disrupt the order of kids in the family. Let each child develop her own areas of strength.
  2. Talk with your existing children before you decide. Solicit their opinion and listen to their desires.
  3. Role play with your child/children some common situations that may come up. For example, if the eldest child in your family has always been allowed to sit in the front seat of the car, what are some ways to change that “rule” to reflect that a new child will now be the eldest.
  4. Plan on one parent staying home for as long as possible to help all the kids adjust to the new family constellation.
  5. Get extra help with the chores around the house to free up parents to focus on the kids for at least the first few months.
  6. Assign privileges based on ability rather than age. Downplay age based privileges. In the above example, rather than it being the eldest child that gets to sit in the front seat, perhaps the new rule could be any child over the age of 12, gets to rotate by week sitting in the front seat. Children younger than 12 are not physically big enough to sit there safely.
  7. Avoid comparing your children. Yes, the child that was raised in your family may well be able to do much more than the new child that is older, but these comparisons serve neither child. Talk with other important people in your family’s life, such as grandparents and school personnel, in advance to encourage them to avoid comparisons.
  8. Be prepared for the new “oldest” child to be less mature than the children already in the family. Prepare in advance for this. For example, if in the past, you left your eldest at home alone when you went grocery shopping with the younger kids, anticipate that it may not be safe to leave your newly adopted eldest child at home. Use some criteria other than age as the reason some kids get to stay at home and others do not.
  9. Educate yourself in advance about some for the potential issues with adopting an older child. It is not true that older kids are “damaged goods”, but it is true that they have often had difficult life experiences that make parenting them more challenging. Families that are prepared for this fare better.
  10. Line up a support system before the new child comes home. Families that are open to getting help and who get it as soon as they need it do better. You are more likely to get the help soon if you know where to go.


Image credit: Roz Sheffield