Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Realistic Expectations - Part I

You may have read the recent news story about the adoptive mom who put her newly adopted son on a plane "back to Russia." While I think she made a terrible choice, I empathize with the fact that she may have felt totally overwhelmed by the difficult and dangerous situation in which she found herself. As I read her story, I couldn't help but think, "What are we getting ourseles into?" We are adopting and "older child." He is not a baby. This probably won't be easy.

Yesterday, I got a long rambling e-mail from our agency about what to expect with "older child adoption." I'm sharing it here in hopes it will help you know how to pray for our family in the coming months. (Please excuse grammar and punctuation. This e-mail was more of a collection of notes and I just don't have time this morning to edit it properly.)

Older Child Adoption
Parents will be exhausted arriving home from the trip. Children hit the ground running. Be prepared to be very tired the first few months. It will be difficult for you to manage your normal routine. You will have to develop a new routine. This is true even for parents with children already home. Your family will have to blend. This takes time. It can take many months before you feel your family is beginning to feel like a family.

Attachment concerns:
Parents need to be the primary caregivers for first 3 months
Bedtime routine: rock your child; even older children can use a bottle
Limit visitors
Keep your world small. Stay home with your child. Children are often afraid when left home. Take as much leave from work as possible. Save welcome home party until later, consider it when you have been home for 3 months

Sleep issues:
Ok not to let them sleep alone, they will be afraid. They can have a hard time falling asleep. They make wake frequently during the night. It is ok to let them sleep in your room, or you can sleep in their bedroom.

Behavior concerns:
Clingy behavior, constantly wanting to be held, needy, difficult for parents to accomplish household activities, may cry when you leave the room, may follow you everywhere

May kick, bite, scratch, spit. They will have orphanage behaviors, children have to learn a new way. When children arrive home, they are very active. They touch the light switches, open cabinets, go through your personal belongings


Older children may have a “bad attitude”

Control. A child learns to trust in his first year of life. He has parents who meet his basic needs over and over. This builds trust. For many of you your child did not have a relationship that encouraged trust. You should parent your child as a much younger child. By parenting him this way, he will learn that you can control him. This will help your child learn to trust you. He will feel safe with you. He will not feel that he has to control everything that happens at home.

It is always good to remember: Choose your battles wisely.

High Structure High Nurture

Children do not make progress in a straight line. You will see days or weeks of good progress. Then your child will regress. This is normal. It is frustrating because you have seen so much progress. Your child will not regress for as long a period of time. This will happen over and over as they transition to their new home.

Overly friendly behavior
You will want to limit family and friends holding your child. Parents should be responding to their child’s needs. Children are looking for that “safe” person. We want them to know mom and dad are safe. They don’t need to continue their search.

Grief affects behavior.
Feelings may be intense at times. Older children may say, “America is no good.” China, Russia, Ethiopia was better. Tantrums may occur several times a day. Tantrums can be intense at times. Tantrums can last for long periods of time, 45 minutes to an hour.

Family Life vs Orphanage Life
Talk about the differences Children learn how parents are able to help them. Tell your children, “Good mothers take care of their children.” They will have to learn what a family is.

Bath time may be difficult. They may have never taken a bath, may scream, and may not like to have hair washed

Meeting your child for the first time - your child may be unhappy, she may cry. She may continue to cry through the night. She is grieving the loss of her world as she once knew it.

Maturity level will be emotionally younger than age
This is difficult for families adopting a child that is older. They look at the child as a 7 year old. The child is behaving as a 2 or 3 year old. It is hard for them to parent the child as a 3 year old.

Baby sign language is a good way to help children communicate with their family.

Many times families are expecting a quiet, meek child to come into their home from an orphanage. Families are surprised to have a loud, bossy child. This child tries to take control of the family right away. This child has the ability to bring a quiet, calm house to a state of chaos.

Social concerns:
Poor table manners
Will need to learn how to play games; will not be an instant playmate for siblings. Socialization takes time

May hit, bite, scratch, or kick

May hoard food and toys. May not know how to care for toys and books. Limit toys and books in the beginning.

Will not understand what it means to share. Siblings will share their toys with newly adopted child. The adopted child will not understand why they have to give the toy back to their sibling.

Surprisingly, older children can be materialistic. They may tell you they want a new bike, shoes, or clothes. It is difficult for parents when a child from a Third World Country asks for so many new items. They are expecting their child to be grateful for what they have and for bringing them home.

Jealousy - the adopted child may feel parents are favoring bio children. It can be a difficult transition. Help sibs prepare. Role play what may happen. It can be a shock to your bio children when their new sibling arrives home. Find time to spend with your bio children. Schedule time with them, go to lunch, ride bikes, etc. Prepare them for the time you will need to spend with newly adopted child. You will spend a lot of time with the adopted child the first several months.

Prepare your children for their new sibling’s needs. The new child will require a lot of mom’s attention the first few months. Try to find ways to spend time with each child. If it is 15 minutes one on one a day, it is a way to help each child feel loved and appreciated.

Food issues:Older children may not like American food, try to transition them to our food, whether with formula or food

Sensory Integration Disorder
Consider having your child evaluated as they may have never walked on grass, may have difficulty chewing, and may not like to be touched.

Discuss feelings. This child may have never been asked what they were feeling, talk about the 4 basic feelings: happy, sad, mad, and scared.

Ok to consider not placing child in age appropriate grade.
May need a tutor. Ok to delay entry to school. They may appear “lazy”and not interested.

Translators are helpful. Language barrier creates temper tantrums and frustrated behavior.

It helps to know a few words in your child’s language. For some countries this is difficult so you may want to use sign language or cards with pictures drawn on them to help you the first few weeks. You will need to explain everything in the beginning. It will take a lot of your time. You are going to need to explain simple things like how to put the dishes in the sink or where is the laundry room and what is a laundry room. This can be exhausting to parents the first few months. It can take older children longer to comprehend what is being said to them. For an older child it may take 6 months to one year until he has a good understanding of English.

Sexual Abuse
is difficult to talk about but does happen to some children. Children that have lived in an orphanage, foster care, or with birth families may have been sexually abused.

Post Adoption Depression
You may question yourself. "Why did I want to do this?" It takes time for families to blend. You will grieve the loss of your family as you once knew it. This is normal. It helps to talk to someone.

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