Monday, May 3, 2010

older child adoption

Hey before I get started on such a broad & important topic, I wanted to answer a question about the flowers.  Someone asked me about the impatients.  They do indeed come back every year.  They actually get about 8" tall and spread like crazy all over.  They have spread further and further down the walk each and every year.  But, what I do do is buy a few plants in the beginning of the season to just get them started.  Plus, helps fill in the gaps.  I am definitely not a gardening expert but love to do it as a hobby and have learned a bunch while working in the florist shop around people who really did know what they are doing.  LOL. They are annuals but they go to seed every year. 

Okay, a topic near and dear to my heart....older child adoption.  This is going to be open so be prepared.   I'm going to be honest about it and that's just a fact.  I can't stand when people tell all the rosy side of the story w/out telling the whole story.  Well, this is going to be the whole story of older child adoption and what all it entails.  I'm going to be blunt as I wished someone had told me a bunch of these things before I first went over.  Seriously.  Maybe then, I wouldn't have felt like the worst parent ever after my first two kids.  Now, by the time we are done adopting(and YES, this is the very last adoption we're ever doing!) my  children at time of adoption will have been 3,  3,  4,  4,  6,  6.5, 7,  8,  8.5, and 9.  Think I got them all.  So, I think that being the case, I have the ability to speak on this topic of older child adoption.  Here goes.  Get ready as this is going to be a bumpy, choppy ride.  Hold on tight for it is not for the faint of heart.

With every adoption we've done, we have set out to adopt an infant.  Yes, even this time.  For just this past August, we became aware of an infant adoption opportunity and wrote a dear birthmother letter while watching 11 kids swimming in the pool.  I do remember that day well.  Long story short, she wanted someone w/ absolutely no children.  We did not qualify obviously.  but, it did get us seriously thinking about adoption.  I started scanning the web a bit more and talking w/ my former agency whom I advocate for anyhow.  That's when I found out about the Bulgaria program.  And, long story short, that is where we are today.  I truly feel we were destined to parent older children.  Yet, I babysit for younger ones.  Go figure.  parenting older, adoptive children is a challenge.  It is like preparing for one battle yet facing a totally different kind of war.  I guess I should start with brining them home and going from there.  Max and Irina were our first two home at 4 and 6.5yo.  They were tiny.  Max wore size 18 months and Irina a size 2T.  Yet, I had to remember that they were 4 and 6 even though they don't act like it at all.  Adopting older children from an institution has its interesting moments.  Like when we picked up Max.  Gave him a lollipop and tried to stick it to his head.  He had no idea what it was as he had never had one before.  I will focus more on the once home part versus the picking them up at the orphanage and also the plane ride home.

So, once home, it is a new battlefield.  And, you best be prepared to battle!  It is a war once home.  Most of the time.  With older kids, they are more aware of what is going on.  And remember, some have been told some horrific stories.  The Americans are going to use you for body parts.  Yes, indeed!  They are told this.  Not everywhere but a good chunk of places.  Ridiculous.  No wonder the kids go ballistic once home.  URGHH.  What's even worse?  The total fear of dogs.  Even if they have dogs at the orphanage as two of my kids did, they are absolutely petrified of dogs once home.  Some of mine were told the dogs would eat their legs off.  So, for the first few weeks, my kids tuck their legs under them.  We have a 100 lbs. dog and when all our kids came home, we always had 2 dogs.  Aspen passed away last fall.  You walk in the door w/ jetlagged children terrified of dogs and you have a big problem.  My suggestion for new families, the first night home, try to have the dogs somewhere else.  IF this is not possible, as in our cases, have a secondary plan.  First, we NEVER go into the house together w/ the kids.  One of us goes in first, calms the dogs(for they haven't seen us for weeks!), and let's them out back.  Next, we come in w/ the kids and try to tame their fears and then let the dogs in.  Yikes~!  The screaming, the horror of it all.  It is literally as though we're peeling leaches off our bodies.  The kids hang on for dear life.  With Alyona & Nik, we were starving by the time we got to the airport.  We stopped off at Wendy's and got some food.  Amazing how french fries to the dog make everything okay.  Within 2 days, the kids are usually okay w/ the dogs.  Now, I wished they'd at least be somewhat afraid of them.  LOL.  Poor Bear.

Okay, so we talked about the dogs once home.  Let's discuss what the kids are going through when they are older.  A number of things really.  They have left ALL their friends, ALL their families, their culture, their language, their identity, their foods, and anything else familiar to them.  They are scared, angry, and sad.  They are NOT grateful you adopted them.  Really, when first home, they could careless.  I'm not being mean folks, I'm being honest.  They have to have time to grieve.  I can not stress this enough ... they have to have time to grieve.  Every single child will grieve in a different way for their loss of everything I just mentioned.  I've had sad grievers, angry grievers, screaming grievers, etc.  You name it, I've had it!  Some kids are going to slap you, some will want nothing to do with you.  It is part of a grieving process.  You must not give up, you must not back down.  I know w/ our first two, we thought we were horrible parents, our kids didn't love us, etc.  Our last two, we were more like hurry up and get this part over with b/c we know it's coming.  Part of a process.  Find out how they are grieving.  For Irina, she finally grieved after a few months of being home.  One night, she crawled in Warren's lap and literally sobbed for 2 and a half hours straight.  After that, she was a new kid. 

To ease transition for older kids, I have learned what works and what doesn't over the years.  First off, do NOT go anywhere the first month home w/ the kids.  No grocery store, no park, no Walmart, no Target, no parties, etc.  Nothing.  Go nowhere.  There is way too much stimulation just inside the home.  Go anywhere outside the home and it just sends them into a tizzy.  It really does.  The first month home, we basically stay home w/ the kids.  Kids first and foremost need to bond. They need to know what family is and what home is and what it means.  If you are constantly taking them somewhere else, they won't grasp that concept for awhile.  Trust me, they'll be plenty of times in their lives to take them somewhere.  So much so when they're teens, you wished you hadn't gone anyhwere that first month home.  LOL.  Another thing I think first time adoptive parents of older children do is to try to give their kids too much.  This includes their rooms.  Do not make thier rooms look like Disney World when they come home. They do not need 50 outfits nor tons of toys to make up for what they did not have.  It stresses them out.  I have seen too many older kids come home and go nuts over having too many clothes to choose from.  YOu can easily add it in later.  The rule here is 7-7-7.  (of course, this rule is permanent for our FASers).  7-7-7 is simply having 7 shirts, 7 pants and 7 shorts to wear.  The less is more concept works wonders for PI kids once first home.  The first few months they do not need the added stress of having too much to choose from and too much to do.  Irina must of changed ten times in the host family's house at the very least.  She just was not used to making a choice and w/ all the other changes goin on, it gave her one more thing to stress about.

The less is more approach works best when first home.  The less choices the children have to make, the better.  Think about it for a moment.  They're already having to choose what language they should answer you in, who to call mom & dad(they are used to calling every stranger this in the orphanage), etc.  The less the kids have to think about, the better.

The language barrier.  Got to love it.  Kids want so, so much to communicate.  What we do in this house is first month home, they are allowed to speak Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian or whatever language they want and I'll answer them in that language.  On the last day of that month period, we cease whatever native language they are used to.  Yes, cold turkey.  We make them repeat us in english.  I will explain this all so it doesn't sound so harsh as I know it does.  Older kids justwant to fit it.  Plain and simple.  When I lived in Germany as a teen, I quickly learned German.  Why?  B/c I wanted to fit in, wanted to be able to speak to people.  We had a friend at Warren's work speak to us when the kids first came home.  She is Russian and from Moscow.  She has children raised bilingual.  She said she speaks to them in Russian and they answer her in english.  She told us they just wnat to be regular kids and since we don't speak fluently, we'd be doing our kids a disservice by keeping the Russian..or trying to.  The faster they acclimated to language, the quicker the friends would be able to play.  And what kid doesn't want to play?  Now, understand they can learn their language any time they want to.  The girls are finally showing an interest of learning Russian again.  And, I think they could.  Now, for older kids, having a cheat sheet the first few weeks home and in-country is a God send.  Really is.  Kids will indeed be fustrated when they can not communicate. This is totally normal!  Totally normal.  Just let it go.  There will be tough times when you can't figure it out.  You both will find a way.  Trust me on this.  Now, we found the last time if we added ASL, they tended to pick up english faster.  We plan on doing that again w/ this Bulgarian adoption.  Plus, they have to learn it anyhow in this house.  Nik is deaf.  My kids are already starting to get some Bulgarian words in.  Another piece of unsolicted advice, do NOT take them to someone else who speaks their language.  Most kids will regress.  Some, think they will be going back to the orphanage.  Some, get reminded of the orphanage.  It just isn't a good idea even if you think it may be doing some good.  BTW, we learned this the hard way w/ Max.  How you speak to them is important too.  The kids are not going to listen if you speaksweetly to them.  The Russian language is rather harsh.  The kids are not used to sweet soft talking.  It was the same way when I lived in Germany.  All cultures speak differently.  Shoot, Texans speak differently than northerners.  It is just the way it is.  Whatever country you are going to, you will learn how they speak.  Use that SAME tone w/ your new child when first home.  It is simply what htey are used to and they need that sense of familiarity.

Chores.  This may seem ridiculous to some but hear me out. Kids are very regimented at the orphanage.  Chores are done daily.  Having chores as soon as they get home, does give it a little bit of a famliar feel w/out being harsh.  Our kids have chores the day they get home.  Trust me, nothing major so no one freak out.  We have found though that they had wanted to do mopping, sweeping etc, daily.  Umm, yeh, like we mop daily here--LOL.  So, instead we give them little things like making their beds.  For them, it is habit anyhow.  Plus, it is something they can show you.  Older kids when they first come home want to be proud and more than that, they want you to be proud of them.  Little chores help. 

Okay, this is way too long.  I will divide this into 2 parts.  Tomorrow will be more of regression therapy and how treating an older child like a younger one, is not a bad idea.  Also, the role siblings have when adopting an older child.  Again, these are all MY opinions based on MY experience w/ MY kids.  I am NOT an expert nor do I claim to be.  Just been in the adoption world for 11 years now and done it 7 times that I have learned things along the way that I hope will help others. 

No comments:

Post a Comment