Sunday, May 9, 2010

Older child adoption --part II

I knew I'd eventually get around to making this post.  For those new, we have always adopted older children.  It was never intended to be that way but that is how our family was formed.  We don't mind a bit.  I think a major, major misconception of people adopting an older child is that they somehow will "miss out" on their firsts.  I can assure you, you will not.  There are so, so many more firsts that you will see and it will be a different perspective.  It means more to them.  You can see it on their faces.  I will never, ever forget the first time we gave Max pop rocks gum.  I so wished we had video taped it.  He thought his mouth was exploding and his whole body started shaking.  Then, he realized it was gum and could not stop giggling.  Just priceless and a first for us.  The first english word they speak or the first sentence they speak.  You remember.  The first time they taste something new.  That is always such a fun time to experiment w/ them on new foods.  For Irina and Max, once they got some language, I told them we were having dog food for breakfast.  I bought Reece's Puffs cereal, which by the way looks just like the Pedigree dog food Bear eats.  They are horrified.  Reluctantly, they try it.  Sure enough, they love it.   We got to teach all our older kids to swim for the first time w/ the exception of Yana(she already knew how).  They are terrified of the pool at first and then they discover they can do it.  It's wonderful to see that first.  I've gotten to see all of them lose their teeth for the first time w/ the exception of Yana once again.  So, as you can see, there are so many firsts for a new parent of an older adoptive child to experience.  There really and truly is. 

Now, let's get to some nitty gritty stuff.  Behaviors of an older child.  Okay, the mouth when they first get home.  This is something I noticed w/ my first two older children home.  In the orphanages of older children, you will have much older children mixed in w/ young children of 7 or 8 years old.  Well, the 16 yo's will cuss like sailors.  True.  This is learned behavior by the younger ones.  When Irina and Max first came home, we let them watch a Nickalodeon cartoon named Hey Arnold.  Well, there is an old man in it w/ an Eastern European accent named Mr. Kakashka.  That's right.  Mr. Shit.  I was wondering why Max and Irina were laughing so hard.  Found out my two were also cussing like sailors though it looked like innocent conversations.  They were 4 and 6 at the time.  Again, learned behavior at the orphanage.  Next trips to Russia we nipped that in the bud right away b/c we learned all the cuss words first.  LOL.  This wears off quickly though.  Just be prepared if it happens. 

Another thing you will find with older children a lot of the time is lack of discipline.  Again, this is very learned behavior at the orphanage.  In an older child's home, they pretty much can do what they want, when they want.  They are left to their own accord most of the time.  Yana recounts everything there and there really was no supervision.  It was quite sad.  When their is no supervision, it becomes more survival of the fittest.  They learn to be quite aggressive.  They will slap, hit , push and whatever else they can once home to get what they want.  Not because they are bad, but really because they honestly do not know any better.  Consequences as soon as behavior has occurred is what we found to be most effective.  If they hit a sibling, they immediately have to apologize.  Now, orphanage kids are usually used to getting physical punishment.  We don't use that here but have more of a punishment system, all written out. They use that.  Even the new kids.  But, first time I raised my voice to Max or Nik(when they first came home), they were absolutely terrified.  Now of course I could scream across 3 football fields and they still wouldn't listen. But when first home, I think htey are scared of whatever happened to them at hte orphanage would happen here.  They quickly learn it won't.  I know Alex was terrified at 3yo of being thrown up in the air.  You know, like you do w/ little kids and they giggle.  He was also afraid of the trashcan b/c he was afraid of being thrown in.  You just don't know w/ older kids all the kids all the things they have been through.  Their reactions may seem odd at first.  Take time to observe them and figure out the why of it all.

Eating and hygiene(or lack their of).  Eating.  Many times(not all) kids come from orphanages malnourished.  So, when they arrive here, they lose all control.  Why, b/c they are so used to food NOT being there, that they feel the need to gorge and hoard.  I have found food many times hidden when our children come home.  I honestly thought Max and Irina could have entered a food eating contest of some sorts.  The only reason Yana didn't eat a lot was because her teeth were so messed up from no dental care, no brushing of teeth, no flouride, etc.  She couldn't eat w/out pain.  Another common thing is the lack of dental care of orphans.  Older children come home needing thousands of dollars of dental work done.  We have the best dentist in teh world!  He does work on Moldovian orphans every single summer.  He takes his own equipment and everything.  Just a wonderful man.  He too has donated to our children and we could never repay for all he has done.  He has help to rescue several of our children.  A generous man that we can not thank enough.  there really are angels among us.  Like the song says "There are angels among us, sent down to us from somewhere up above.  They come to you and me in our darkest hour.  Show us how to give, teach us how to live, guide us by the light of love."  I love that song.  Don't know who sings it  But I love it and it reins true for me.  I digress.  Food is a real problem when they come home.  New textures they are not used to.  Our kids were scared to eat a McDonald's burger at first.  Now, you wouldn't e able to tear them away from one.  LOL.  Older kids are a little more willing to be adventurous though.

The hygiene of older children from orphanages...yuck, is all I can say.  For one, they don't believe in toilet paper.  I'm dead serious.  Then, when you teach them, they must use an entire roll per flush.  Or the other thing is when they poop, they then throw the paper in the trash can versus the toilet.  This was not just a one region thing for our kids.  It was pretty much all of them.  Drives me crazy to this day.  They get home and yes, you need to be prepared to teach them the basics like brushing their teeth and how to use the restroom. 

Older kids will catch onto things pretty quickly.  Especially, if they have others to follow.  When Bojan came home, he did not dress by himself, eat by himself or use the bathroom himself.  4 days after being home, he did all self care.  Older kids will tend to be a bit more emotional.  Yes, they will.  Phew!  The girls drove me crazy when first home.  Seemed like I was living in drama theater all the time.  No way out.  I rolled w/ the punches then and intend to this go around as well.  One thing you have to remember when you adopt an older child is not to take things personally.  I know it sounds hard and somewhat near impossible, but it is true.  They will act out to you.  I've had some of mine slap, kick, punch, bite, break my glasses, etc.  It happens.  And in the moment, it is hard not to want to react back but you must.  They are searching for a reason in the beginning not to like you.  Remember, you are the one that took them away from their entire life.  They are more aware of this when they are older and look for ways in the beginning to not like you for doing that.  Acting out is their simple way of expressing the grief they feel since they really don't have the ability to communicate that thought clearly yet.  Calm talking and sometimes stepping out of the situation for a moment helps us.  Grief is very hard to watch these children endure.  Just take solice in the fact that it doesn't last forever.  And, you are not alone.  One thing that I learned helped my kids heal a little quicker is taking all their possessions away that they came with.  Let me explain b/c that sounds so horrible.  When Yana came home, she slept w/ the pictures and religious icons she had brought home w/ her.  We thought this would help but quickly learned it was hindering her healing.  She would run to her room , whip out a picture and talk to that instead of us.  So, one day I took everythign away and put it some place safe.  She was devastated at first but we noticed after awhile she came to us for comfort and not her memories.  AFter her grieving process, I gave the photos all back and regret doing that.  Not b/c of healing or anything like that but b/c her and Irina then took the photos, cut out the people and stuck them to things.  These, were photos by her Godmother that could NOT be replaced.  URGHH.  Lesson learned for us was not to let the kids keep anything we don't want ruined.  You'd think we would have learned that by now.  Nope.  They need the memories to not be flooded every single second of their day so that they can start their new life in their new family.  You need to be their sole form of comfort from the get go to help w/ bonding.  A few months after being home, the kids enjoy those pictures/ things w/ much more ease and are able to talk about hte people or the item then.  I love those conversations and do wished I'd recorded some of them. 

I know I only touched on a few things for older children.  There is so, so much more.  I will eventually get to more of them.  Again, these are things that I've noticed after7 kids home.  It may be different for you.  You just never know w/ kids.  Some of ours have been surprisingly smooth transitions and some of them you wished you could have a "do over."  LOL.  Good luck to all those adopting older kids.  It is challenging but so rewarding as well.  Mother's Day post to come. 

1 comment:

  1. The song Angels Among Us is sung by the band Alabama. It is one of my favorite songs too.

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