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Birth Order Question in Adoption

A common question in adoption is whether or not to jump birth order when bringing home a child through adoption. By this I mean, if you have biological children, would you bring home a child older than your oldest child? This would essentially make your oldest a middle child.

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Allow me to offer two things to keep in mind.

1. The dynamics of your biological family. Do your children function in traditional birth order roles? If you have a strong oldest, it could be incredibly challenging for her to suddenly be displaced in a family structure. If you have a middle child that already feels overlooked, adding a sibling above them could feel heavy for them. Obviously, these issues are often unavoidable in family dynamics. Sometimes, it just happens. For instance, I have four children through adoption and then had a biological child last year. He is a firstborn playing the role of the baby of 5 kids. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out as they get older.

2. The dynamics of the child’s biological family.

This is an aspect of the conversation that is often overlooked. Media, television, and film like to portray birth families as teenagers from good families that got themselves in a hard situation and are now choosing an adoption plan for their baby. That is statistically so far from the truth, though. Adoption is a complicated situation. Most birth mothers are in their twenties and many of them are parenting other children. Often that means that a child with an adoption plan would biologically be a middle or baby of the family. I would never, ever recommend not adding a child to your family because of their biological birth order. However, I would take this information as extremely useful in parenting this child within your family dynamics. For instance, if you have three biological children and add a child who is a firstborn in their first family, you could have some challenges. I know a family with a firstborn as the baby of the children and a baby now playing the role of a firstborn. It is fascinating to watch as a younger child likes to rise to the occasion, make sure others are obeying rules and getting others to follow her. The oldest is much more passive and a free spirit. She couldn’t care less about rules and certainly won’t be the one to set an example. Their family works, but the parents do keep in mind the unique way each of their children were created as they lead their family.

Ultimately, I do not think it should be the deal breaker it can be. However, it does matter on a small level and should be taken into consideration as you parent children from different places. I have seen many families jump birth order with success. Adoption is a beautiful mess! It has loss and pain and awkward dynamics. It also has joy and flexibility and uniqueness that should be celebrated.

If you have any questions about any aspect of adoption, I would be happy to talk to you anytime.

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2 Responses to Birth Order Question in Adoption

  1. Amy September 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    Thank you for saying you have seen families jump birth order with success. Is a great encouragement as we are about to begin that journey soon!

    • Cate September 13, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

      Many blessings as you begin your journey. Get lots of support and as much background information as you can. Email me if you have questions about older child adoption/attachment

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