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Age gap between natural and adopted children - what works?

12 replies

JojoMags · 19/05/2013 11:14

We are at the very early stages of thinking about adoption. We have two boys currently 5 and 2. We would not be in a position to adopt a child until they were at least 7 and 10 due to career changes that would need to stabilise.

A friend of mine recently adopted a 3 y.o. girl and the adoption sadly broke down. She had natural children (boys) who were 16, 12 and 9 when the adoption took place. One of the reasons she gave for the break down was that the little girl struggled to fit in with her much older new brothers. I think there must have been other reasons but it got me wondering.

Does anyone have any experience of what age gaps between natural and adopted children generally work, or should be avoided? Or is each case different?

OP posts:
shockers · 19/05/2013 11:33

Our son was 12 when we adopted 2 siblings. I would be lying if I said he didn't struggle at times, but he's 26 now and loves them both dearly.

It might have helped that we fostered for a time first, it got him used to having other, younger and sometimes challenging children in the house.

Italiangreyhound · 19/05/2013 12:55

Hi JojoMags we are not yet adoptive parents but are going through the process. My DD is 8 and will be 9 by the time a little one joins us. My DD would quite like a 5 or 6 year old (and we would be open to 5) but our social worker suggested 2-4. My understanding is that a larger age gap is better. I can't comment on your friend's experience but I would suggest if it is not too painful for her to talk about the adoption and the breakdown that you do chat to her and find out her experiences.

My (limited) understanding is that if the children are at different ages and different stages the their needs are less likely to demand you attention at the same time, and this is better.

Hopefully someone who has had expereinces of this will be along to say more.

HystericalParoxysm · 19/05/2013 13:56

There are small gaps between our birth and adopted children, and that works well for us. The children have similar interests in days out, for example. However it can be challenging to convince local authorities to take what they see as a 'risk' - they usually prefer adopted children to be much younger than birth children. The gaps you suggest are fairly typical in my experience.
By the way 'birth' children is a preferable term to 'natural', as it infers that adopted children are unnatural Wink

Lilka · 19/05/2013 14:30

I have a 19 year age gap between my oldest and my youngest - 10 years between oldest and middly, then another 9 between middly and youngest.

Actually for my situation this works really really well. The personalities of my children and their needs mean none of them, especially middly, would do well with a child close in age to them. DS (youngest) and DD2 (middly) love going out with their elder sister, they love being with her, and part of the reason is that she's a mature adult which they find easier.

However nearly every adoptive family I know of has a smaller total gap than that - some with birth children have like a 5-8 year gap between their youngest birth child and adoptive child, some have about 2-3 years. Most of them don't have any serious sibling issues.

I think it's totally dependent on the personality and needs of the individual children. Adoptions succeed (and sometimes fail) with all age gaps under the sun. I would personally suggest going for at least a 3 year gap based on my own experiences, because the children will tend to have slightly different interests and therefore not need to 'compete' with each other as much. But then i know adoptive families with like 2 year gaps who don't have any problems at all.

All adoption agencies will have a minimum age gap by the way - I think the majority have a 2 year minimum age gap but some have 3 or 4 year minimum gaps.

But for all the considering, if your birth children are older your age gap is largely determined by the age of child you want to adopt. If your youngest BC reaches 7 but you still feel a desire to go through some baby/toddler stages with a new child the you will obviously have a large gap. Only if you want slightly older children (3-6 ish) do you need to think about what minimum/maximum gap you want.

cedar12 · 19/05/2013 17:33

We have a 7 year gap. It works well for us. I can explain things so much easier to dd she is 10. She has struggled a bit but nothing to bad so far.

Italiangreyhound · 19/05/2013 19:09

Oh Cedar tips, please, DD (8) has admitted she is a bit worried I will love new child more than her! I said impossible! I will love them the same and so her no less. Any tips of or advice, books to read etc! please. PM if you prefer. Thanks... Apologies JojoMags... just wanted to ask Cedar.

cedar12 · 19/05/2013 20:26

Have message you Italian

Italiangreyhound · 19/05/2013 22:43

Thanks Cedar your message was great.

Kewcumber · 20/05/2013 15:01

I think there has been some research done that says optimum gap is about 6 years! But I think that is between two adopted siblings no idea if anyone has looked at birth vs adopted.

Also most adopters prefer to use "birth" rather than natural as the alternative to natural is unnatural!

FamiliesShareGerms · 20/05/2013 19:31

Four and a half years works well (so far!) for us. No direct competition between them, but not such a chasm that they don't have things in common. Also, there's only one of "each", so they are both special in their own way IYSWIM

MummytoKatie · 24/05/2013 09:57

I know nothing about adoption but thought I'd comment a bit on age gaps as I have seen first hand.

Dh is 7 years older than his younger brother. They are incredibly close and apparently have been since BIL was about 3 and every day would start waiting at the back door at 2pm for Dh to get home from school at which point he would grab DH's hand and the two of them would happily play for hours.

My two nephews have 6.5 years between them and are either indifferent to each other or fight. My SIL says that she has basically raised two only children.

So I think it is more about the personalities than the age gap - which is something that you can't predict.

Kewcumber · 24/05/2013 12:24

Mummytokatie - there is an added dimension to age gaps when adopting that needs to be considered which is the possibility of challenging behaviour of a newly adopted child. If your birth child is too young to understand or too small to deal with possibly aggressive behaviour then it can be very tricky for you to try bonding with an adopted child whilst they are hurting your confused and adored older child, it also makes it difficult for your birth child to bond with a child who is not only sucking up your attention (which to be fair would be the same as a new-born birth child) but is possibly also old enough to be getting into all their toys and encroaching upon their space - at least new borns have the decency to just lie there!

Point about personality is a good one but you can;t plan for that.

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