Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Questions Answered (part II)
Got a few questions going so thought I'd start answering them. Also,do the best I can to answer them. Keep in mind, I am NOT an expert of any kind. NOT a professional. That is my disclaimer here. Just a parent who has learned what works over the years. From many, many trials and errors. Maybe it will help someone else. Or, maybe someone can give me some extra suggestions. I have been very open and honest here. So, take it w/ a grain of salt. What works for one of us, will not work for another necessarily. That being said, read on.
1. What are the recommendations on things to do when adopting an older child? Don't panic and don't read too much online. Funny, as you're here. LOL. I've always spoken straight from the hip so going to do that here as well. Adopting older kids is no picnic. It's not. There are some advantages for sure. However, these kids come with an entire other life before you got them. They are used to doing things their way. And, if they were transferred to the older kids home, they are used to things their way and used to having no one but no one tell them what to do. See, once in the older kids' homes, there is very little supervision, if any. Most of these places are from 7 years old and older. Just 7 years old & they're watching 16yo's and such. You get the picture. You have to first get them out of the mindset that they are in charge. You go w/ routines for sure. And chores. Our kids have chores upon arriving home in the US. Don't start screaming till you hear me out. See, they are used to chores over in their country. By them doing them here, it is something that is familiar to them. That and giving them a hug when done as they are very proud of the job, gives them a sense of accomplishment and a step closer to you. Kitchen is also a great bonding place. Shoot, who doesn't like to make cake or cookies? Be very hands on. They won't mind, you're making cookies. Trust me. Doing simple things to promote bonding is huge. It really is. Take walks together. Do not, do not go to big gatherings or where there are lots of people. No, not even church. We don't really go anywhere for the first month home. They first have to learn what a home is and who their family is. You can not accomplish that with going to places where there are a lot of people. I know people want to visit and mean well but for the first month home... big no no. Unless, you know the kids. All our kids we could not go anywhere with. However, with the next 3 coming home, I do believe two of them could go anywhere w/ no issues. Safe side though, not going any where for a month. Adopting an older child you must let them work out their issues. They will have issues and they MUST they MUST grieve their lost. This is highly important. It is. It is a break through moment too when it happens. This is different for every single child. Irina cried for 2 hours straight one night after a few weeks of being home & distant from us. This was her break through. Yana had an all out rage. That was her break through. Though her rages continued, this one was different. Others, the 4yo's we've regressed a bit. We've had quiet grievers, anger grievers, and crying grievers. It is really different for each child but they must get out emotional the loss of their past. It is a vital part of their healing to move forward. Some do this fairly quickly, some it takes months to do. For our kids though, we've seen the aftermath of it and it is such a relief to them. They feel they can move on to a new life.
2. What have you done to help the older children attach? Some of that is written above in the previous question. Doing little things together for sure. Water is great b/c typically, they are nervous in water due to lack of exposure in the orphanage. They must depend on you to keep them safe. Reading to them every night, simply watching a movie together while they sit on your lap. Stuff like that. Oh, another important thing we learned quickly w/ Yana was we had to take their past away. Now, let me explain before everyone gets up in arms about this. See, Yana came w/ mementos, religious icons, and pictures from her group at the orphanage. This was her life, her past. We didn't realize that it was a crutch and needed to be dealt with. She would go running to these items for comfort but instead should have been running to us for comfort. So, that day despite her screaming, we took ALL mementos, religious icons and photos away. No, we didn't throw them away. We hid them. She needed to depend on us from that moment forward and she did. After a few choice words of course. We noticed she started coming around more after that. Few months later, we returned all items though very, very sorry I did. She thought it was "cool" to cut out the people in the pictures and paste them on things. Ruining pictures that we had no copies of or could never get a copy of. URGHH!!! My daughter. Should have kept them hidden. Older kids tend to take a little more time to attach. 2 of mine also had RAD. The break through w/ Alex & his RAD was when we regressed him. Essentially, treated him like a baby for a few months. It was a break through. Do NOT, do NOT regress on your own. We did not follow traditional regression therapy that is so controversial. We based what we did w/ Alex on our visits w/ our previous psychologist for Irina and Max. I will say it was the best thing we did for Alex though and did heal him and he became more attached. This was not easy. Most older kids though will take a little time to attach. They have more time to process and take it all in. Do not push the issue. Give them time, give them a little space but also let them know you're there and always will be. It's the little things like walks and making cookies that make a difference. Not all the fancy therapy. Not against therapy as we have done it w/ some of our kids. Just think some times people don't give their older kids enough time and jump into therapy too soon.
3. What are the stepping stones w/ accepting a child around the age of 3 due to language barriers, etc.? Interesting question. The younger they are, the quicker the language is learned. Well, except if you find out they're deaf. LOL. Alex was 3yo, Nik was 4yo, Max was 4yo, & Summer will be 4yo at the time they came home. We spoke to them in their native language for a month. At the month mark, we dropped it all. The quicker they gain language the better. Unless you plan on being bilingual at home, there really is no sense in hanging onto the native language. Reason for this is the kids just want to be like other kids in America. If they speak another language, they will stand out. Kids don't like to stand out really, they just want to be one of the group having fun. Total immersion will help them learn quickly. Umm that and a few dvd's. You'd be surprised. ASL also helps them learn much faster. I was really shocked at this when we used it w/ Alyona and Nik. Plan on doing that w/ the next 3 coming home as well since they'll have to learn it anyhow. Many focus or I should say are really concerned with language acquisition. Don't be. Even my kids who are rather mentally challenged and developmentally delayed learned language fairly quickly. Much quicker than I ever could. Also, remember kids coming from institutions are going to be delayed in many areas. They do catch up relatively quickly. Takes a little time. In five months time, Nik(4yo) went from being developmentally around 18 months to a 5 yo like his peers. Max did the same exact thing. It is nothing I get too concerned with until after they've been home for around 6 months or so. They I'll decide if they need further testing and such.
4. We are told to take large amount of cash with us. Is that your experience? (they were referring to Stavropol region) Unfortunately, that is definitely our experience. I know with Murmansk, I had $21,000 cash on me. It's an uneasy feeling for sure. And I thought it was a lot when we had $10K on us for our first two kids in Orenburg. Ha! Was I wrong. I honestly forget how much we had in Stavropol. We'd split the money up and wear it around our necks. and being that you needed crisp bills, and 100's, it was tough. Such a bad feeling. But, you are paying fees for people doing a job. We pay court fees here in America all the time. Just think of a traffic ticket. Court costs are prevalent in adoption just due to the immense amount of paperwork. With Irina & Max in 1999, we saw exactly where our foreign fees went & I LOVED that part! They lived in a remote village. very, very remote. They used it to buy a new van. Our fees back then were $4500 per child. Orphanage was so proud and told us that now they could finally take their kids to the hospital....4 hours away. Never saw where the money went for the other two regions. Hate that part. So, yes, large amounts are not unusual whatsoever, especially, when dealing w/ Russia. Now, Bulgaria, the first trip we only took $4K over with us. However, most our fees are wired from the States so that is why. Our amount we took was mostly for travel/ hotel/ food costs.
5. What techniques have you used to help w/ ADHD. With so many other mental health disorders, the ADHD here doesn't seem all that bad. Part of that is though some of mine are on medication. It helps them immensely. When Max first got medication, we were totally, totally against. It didn't change who he was, it changed how he functioned. Max told me "mommy, can I keep taking these pills?" I said why? He said b/c the first time in my life I can think. My heart broke that I hadn't done it sooner. He was not a zombie or anything like that. He was normal and for the first time, able to really live. Max and Alex are on medication. Alyona and Nik are not but I do believe I will change that SOON. It's time. Some kids outgrow this disorder. Ours will not just given the age they are now. Another thing we do, is my kids get lots and lots of exercise every single day. Period. They do not sit around playing video games. In fact, I'm one who believes video games are extremely bad for kids w/ ADHD b/c they tend to over focus on them. They can't let go. My kids are limited to 20 minutes of game time and it is not everyday. And you know what? Not a single one of their friends complain. In fact, they all check the time on the microwave to to time themselves! Plus, they don't usually come over here to play w/ video games. Instead, on the trampoline, or swingset, or making things in 'woodshop' that Max holds for them, or swimming, or playing Foosball or whatever else they can come up with. Yes, when it rains, we usually do end up watching a movie. Today, they swam, watched a movie, made posters, etc. ADHD kids have tons of energy & they must burn it off. And, since they tend to get in trouble some times more than other kids, praise is also necessary. They are so proud when you say thanks for doing this or that. Or what a beautiful poster you colored me. Do something they want to do. doesn't matter how small it is. It matters. ADHD kids need to feel like they matter as well. Very important. I don't use any fancy diets whatsoever. I'm sorry but personally, it would drive me nuts. REally would. We do eat a lot of fresh fruits & veggies though. In addition, they drink mostly water and milk. Though I must admit this past week we've had our fair of soda. It's SO good on a hot day & I'll admit that. But, for the most part, we don't do a lot of soda and we've eliminated a ton of processed foods.
6. What do you find works when you are dealing w/ total defiance and anger? (referring to things such as PTSD and RAD) Oh, this is a good one. Now, remember, all kids are different. But, those who've walked these shoes will tell you this is not easy at all to do. You have to remove yourself emotionally from the situation. I mean totally remove yourself. You have to think of them as a patient during that moment and NOT AS YOUR CHILD. I'm serious about this. If you are too involved emotionally, you will not be able to properly handle the situation. You want to fix it as a normal parent would. You can't. The kids can't handle a normal fix like that. They are not wired that way. And the defiance and anger is so, so hard to let go. It is. But, do. Let it play out. You can not discipline them or even talk to them in a rational manner when they are totally defiant and angry. It will not work whatsoever. Trust me on that one. You wait. Let them blow off steam. If they are raging and break something, they will fix or pay for it later. Bottom line. Don't worry about what gets broken. Just keep the kids safe and the other kids safe. That is your ONLY goal during one of these rages or anger episodes. They will calm down. We've taught ours over the years to go to their spot. Most, go to the hammock. Some, walk around the house. No one is to go near them when they are like this. My kids know this rule. It is a safety issue. You as the parent are like a security guard at this point. You do not, do not approach them until after they are finished w/ the anger or defiance. It may take 2 or 3 hours. You then review everything that transpired that time. If they broke something, they fix it. Or earn money by working hours to buy a new one. There is no gray area, do not give them gray area to work with or they will take advantage of it. Then, you ask them what is making them so angry. Don't take offense if they say it's you. You are the therapist at this point, not the parent. Hard to separate and took us years to see it this way. You must look from the outside in to be able to assess the situation. We ask them what would make them feel better. Suggest other things if it is an unreasonable request. Then, we make a plan to figure out how to behave better next time. Ours do get punished for acting this way. They know it. You may say that's wrong or whatever but if they are to learn from their actions, then they must be grounded. One big incident w/ Yana this past year, we stripped her of her room. She lost it all. Everything. Since then, not too many issues. It is hard for me not to want to scream at them w/ the defiance part. It is SO aggravating. But, you walk away if you need to compose yourself. For me, Max is extremely defiant lately. When it gets too loud w/ him or any of the kids for that matter, we start to whisper. They'll look at you odd but it works. You'll notice they'll start to lower their voices. With this, you can talk to them more rationally. Helps. You find tricks that work. Each kid is different and it is up to individual parents to do what is best by their child. I can tell you that normal parenting will not work with most these kids. They need a visual. Hence, my rope yesterday tying off the upstairs due to Max's remarks. Kids w/ PTSD and RAD and FAS or whatever are able to tell you what makes them go off. You just have to dig to get to it. This was tricky w/ Alex b/c it was so hard for him to express what he meant. We had to untangle his words piece by piece. Oh, and when you talk to them once they've calmed down, physical touch is essential. They need that connection. They do. they may not think they do, but they do. You must feel their presence and vice versa. We usually touch the tops of their hands. when they first come off of being mad, they won't want to get near you at first. Approach little by little. By the end, they should be hugging you. Sometimes, Alex will have a cry session afterwards saying he hates his brain this way. We assure him he is in total control of his body and next time to tell us if he thinks his body is not listening. Put it in terms they can understand. Hope some of that made sense.
7. You have many children w/ issues interacting daily together. How does this work? It seems to work alright most days. They help each other. Plus, we've taught the ones w/ rages to separate themselves if they feel it coming on. And they do. Each of the kids reminds the other when to take medicine. They all know they all have special quirks about them. They know this. Yet, we also don't ever focus on that though. Most of the stuff I take issue w/ is normal kid stuff. We also have children of different ages. Socially, they are fine. They have friends over. I do have one day a week though where no one is allowed to come over. Otherwise though, they're friends are here everyday. I don't mind as I know where they are and what they're doing. Though I do think yesterday they thought I was losing it. They even warned Max to shut up. He just kept going & going. That is one thing too. My kids look after one another. they do. But, like other siblings, they get along sometimes and sometimes they don't. For the most part, they do. Right now, they're all swimming together with friends. Yes, I'm well aware it's 8:30 at night. That's the beauty of summer. Enjoy it while you can. And, the teen girls are well aware Alyona's mental age is about 4yo. They know this. Though they don't like her around all the time, they do involve her for certain things. And that I appreciate. They take time with her. If they are frustrated w/ something she's done, one will remind them remember what mom said, she's only 4. Then Alyona will usually start yelling that she's not 4, she's 12. Point is they do try to understand each others differences. some times though, they'll use that against them. Got to love it. We do things as a family though to help promote the interaction. They all go to church with us like it or not. They all eat dinner w/ us every night like it or not. They all help clean like it or not. They all go on family outings together like it or not.
8. Have you thought of more kids after these 3 come home? I'm about 75% positive we are done. Reason I say that is b/c we have said we are DONE after every single adoption. Though I am pretty positive we're done, if the opportunity presents itself I would do it again in a heartbeat. Especially, Bulgaria. Love the country! And, the fact that we've never ever had a little one ever, is another reason. Don't think I'll ever get my "little one" but one can always hope. Plus, when you go to the older kids home and know they have little to no chance, it is hard to walk away and say you'd do nothing if you actually can. Shoot, there are two CF sibs I'm advocating for. They weigh heavy on my heart. Same for these 2 girls I met and Logan & R's orphanage. Oh my, oh my. They are just wonderful. Yes, they are older but for some reason all these years, though never planned, we always get steered toward the older kids. And that is perfectly fine w/ us. Whether we have ten or twelve, I'm good. Plus, once you past two kids, you're outnumbered anyways. Think though, I may just have to wait for those grandkids this time. Got quite a few more years on that though. Many years on that one.
9. Are you going to move? Yes. Whenever we sell the house. We are prepping the house now to sell. We will sell as is as it is impossible to keep "show ready" with this many kids and dogs.
10. How do you manage so well w/ all the issues the kids have? thanks for the compliment. Some days we manage well, some days we don't. When we've had a particularly hard FAS day, I try to write about it on here some times. I want others to know it is not always smooth sailing. I think though we manage b/c we have gotten used to a lot of the chaos that comes w/ FAS and other issues our children have. That and lots and lots of humor. Lots of humor. Some days though, I admit. I lose it. I do. Yesterday comes to mind. I roped off the upstairs w/ a dog leash. I did. Max's solution to their room being a mess was not to clean it like I suggested. Oh no. His suggestion was that simply NO ONE go upstairs. Now, another kid that was here could see what was coming. He said "Ms. Stephanie, can I please go upstairs and get my shoes?" He could sense I would do something for Max's sarcastic comment. Yes, he got his shoes. Anyhow, I said "fine Max. Fine. We'll do it your way." So, I roped off the upstairs. Alex said "great Max, look what you've done now!" I'm telling you, Alex is catching on more and more these days. The rope didn't stay up long. It was more of a statement. Got through to some but definitely not all. Also, chocolate. Well, that's just for me. Chocolate is like coffee for me. Though the whole time I was in Bulgaria I only had chocolate once. Sometimes though, when you're in the midst of a crazy RAD/ FAS type of crisis, nothing makes you think better than a 3 Musketeers bar. I think Warren can sense when I've had a crazy, crazy day at home. He'll bring me one of those prized bars home. Seriously though, we do seem to manage. It's more of a controlled chaos some days. And that's okay. Not everyday is going to be roses. It can't be. That's just not normal for any family on this planet. But, for the most part, we get along alright. It is mostly Warren and I being on the same page when it comes to the kids. Knowing when the other may need a break. Not letting the kids get the better of us. --easier said than done some days. Thinking to myself this is only one day out of many. With every new day there's fresh hope. And there is. Some times we'll put the kids to bed and say to them tomorrow is going to be a better day, right? yes, mom. A few minutes ago I kicked Nik out of the pool for trying to hold his sister under water. Teens were all in the pool and had enough witnesses to know it was indeed Nik. Alyona confirmed. She was in bad shape emotionally. Nik was kicked out of the pool for the rest of the night and tomorrow. He's getting a shower & I'm sending him to bed. He's knows he did wrong. He's not thinking clearly at all any more. I can't put off the evident any longer. He is ADHD and I know it. Have known for years. I have a few w /that dx here. But today was clearly the last straw. Nik will be getting an appointment and we'll start the trial and error of medication. I was hoping I could handle his ADHD w/out it but no way. Safety is becoming an issue for sure. Don't worry, Alyona is fine. She went back swimming. That's how we manage though. Something comes up, you handle the most critical item that is happening. Our kids all have mental health, behavioral and emotional issues. They all act without thinking most of the time. You have to balance these types of problems with normal family life. We do go places with our kids. To us, it's important. We think it's important to be semi-normal in a not so normal household. Though we really haven't gone much of anywhere these past few weeks, my kids have had tons of fun w/ friends. It's 8:20 at night & we're letting them swim. Friends are over at the house now swimming w/ them. Point is, we manage but not focusing on the disorder but on the child themselves. What is important to them. What are they doing. Not, what does FAS or RAD or PTSD or whatever do to them. I think that is how we manage the way we do. Okay, before the police are called for noise levels here, I must go lower them.