Ask AF: Older Child Adjustment

An older child arrives with a past full of experiences. Use AF's guide of what to expect to help draw connections between past and present, and help your new child feel like a part of your family.

Adoption Experts answer your questions.

Q: We are adopting an 11-year-old boy from Eastern Europe. For the last seven years, he has lived with a loving foster family. We’ll be spending a month in his country, but we want to ease his adjustment when we return to the U.S. What behaviors should we watch for?


A: Your son has to adjust to both your family and his new country – and the result can be anger, depression, and rejection. A child’s grief is a sign that he’s learned to attach and trust – and kids can usually learn to do so again.

Try to spend time with his foster family before you leave. He needs to see that you are working together and that you all have his best interest at heart. Try to get a sense of how the family functions – for example, what is the level of physical affection, how much independence was he given, and so on. Your son has learned that this is how a family operates, and your family’s habits may at first seem wrong to him. It will take time – maybe years – before your child truly feels part of your family, but eventually he will. Just keep loving him, and have patience with how he is making sense of his new life.


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