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4 tips for parents when adopting an older child

Whether you’re adopting a kid out of the foster system or your spouse’s child, becoming the parent of a teenager comes with its challenges. You’re raising them during a pivotal time in their life and your actions can affect them for years to come. Making mistakes is to be expected when preparing a teenager for adulthood. By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your adopted child will triumph during this transitional period.

Discuss expectations and enforce boundaries.

Kids need boundaries, but there may have been a lack of discipline with their birth or foster parents. You will want to set boundaries while still showing them a level of trust and respect. You can discuss your expectations of their behavior shortly after they move in. Consider establishing a chore and study schedule and setting a curfew. Make sure that you reward good behavior, but enforce appropriate punishments when necessary.

Give them the opportunity to make decisions.

Fundamental decision-making abilities are crucial during a person’s teenage years to help them to feel in control of their life. Help them to brainstorm short and long-term goals and ask them to decide what steps they want to take to accomplish them. If they run into issues at school or with their peers, talk out the issues with them and assist them in finding creative solutions to solve the problems. Make sure to open the line of communication as soon as possible so that they feel comfortable enough to turn to you for help if problems arise.

Educate them on life skills

Being able to live independently requires building on basic life skills. Here are some examples of things you may want to consider reviewing, granted they are age-appropriate.

  • Setting up a bank account
  • Cooking
  • Doing laundry
  • Applying for jobs
  • Driving a car
  • Exploring options after high school

These activities can help to empower them and offer valuable bonding moments.

Consult with licensed professionals.

They say that raising a child takes a village and this can especially ring true in cases of adoption. Some kids struggle with making the transition. They may have a history of trauma or the need to discuss their feelings about adoption with a neutral third-party. You don’t have to help them to work through these issues alone, especially when it comes to behavioral, substance and mental health issues. You may want to consider bringing them to speak with a therapist or psychiatrist to find solutions to build a support team.

Don’t feel pressured to accomplish these goals all at once. You don’t want to overwhelm your teen, but you do want to let them know you are there for them and that you are able to give them the attention they need. If you need help sorting through the legal complexities of adoption, you may want to consider consulting with a well-seasoned attorney to discuss your options.

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