Saturday, March 16, 2013

How do we?

I've been chattin' with a friend, a fellow adoptive mom who has the same burden on her heart as I do. Older children.

We want to see them ALL get homes. BUT--------- and this is a biggie---- HOW do we advocate for them while trying to prepare people for what differences, the difficulties without driving people away from even considering an older child adoption?

Because there is lots of fun, love, enjoyment, positives adopting older. And there is not one simple answer as to what family is a "perfect" fit for a child that you are reading a slim, and I mean slim, file on.

Some behaviors that are manageable for some families are completely unacceptable for others. HOW DO YOU KNOW?

I'm going to give some simple things that most all see with their older children so you can pretty much bank on these behaviors--

Rough play- especially if from an orphanage- the quickest, toughest get the most in an orphanage setting.  This equates to rough play, rough grabbing, rough on things, lack of respect of personal items, they tend to touch EVERYTHING. It takes time to get this worked on with a new child.

Loud-- again, this gets attention the quickest, no one teaches "quiet" in an orphanage setting.

Rude (to us)-- they eat with their mouth open, they slurp, they do not use toilet paper, and when they do they throw it in the trash can. They spit, pass gas, throw food waste on the table. These are all proper CHINESE behaviors, not so cute to all of us. 

No Personal Space-- They do not understand PERSONAL space. As in-- they are up your butt, when they want to see something they will push you, brother, sister, whoever out of the way to see. Clarification here -- they NEED this closeness, it's super to use to build a bond. Over time you can work on them learning people here expect personal space. If this is a huge pet peeve of yours you will have to endure this for at least a little bit (months not weeks) or risk alienating child for good.

 The lack of personal space also shows up in them in having little respect for things, sister's things, fair game. Your things, kiddo wants them, they take them. No concern for "stealing" because they wanted it, they think it's okay for them to have it.

Siblings-  These kids only know they have had serious competition for food, love, attention, toys, space, clothes, everything in their lives. 

So you bring "Johnny" home thinking "Mikey" who is also adopted but 3 years ago will be a PERFECT fit as they are only 2 years apart.  You have Johnny who comes and sees Mikey as-------- (pick one)

1. Great, I got a playmate, how fun!  

2. Dude was already here, he's got one up on me already, I gotta fight to get ahead of him as  I am already low man and behind!!

Most of the time, even if it's a short time, you get #TWO.  Yep, NOT thrilled to see a sibling in the home already, and this can go for girls, boys, girl and boy, younger , older, etc. Any combo may not go well.

And this also means from the time you get them they are looking at everything you get/have for them compared to siblings, sometimes even comparing what YOU, the parent have. One more M &M for Mikey than Johnny? "Oh, you don't love HIM as much?" (I kid you not, mine STILL TRY to do this here sometimes)

Maturity- these kids are very delayed socially. So the kiddo you adopted, Johnny who is 13 and only 6 months younger than Mikey who is 14 and you picture as the best of friends, throwing football in the yard--they may very well NEVER get along.

 Johnny is likely going to be closer to 10-11 AT BEST even for years to come, meaning he may be annoying to Mikey, will not be able to play with Johnny, and Johnny can find nothing in common with Mikey. He's even ANNOYING to Mikey, will not respect Mikey's things. Is Mikey going to flip out if "his" things are touched?

Often the kids from orphanage care are so used to routine and being told what to do when they can't entertain themselves. They expect you to tell them what to do and how to do each and every thing. It's TIME consuming. They also may need to be watched closely for safety reasons with siblings for awhile.

Now some things you *MIGHT* see and you might not.....

Game playing- this goes into a few different directions. 

Internet, child may come with an amazing ability to figure out how to get around blocked internet access. And they usually don't do this to watch cartoons. They are contacting people, sometimes no one THEY even know, giving out your info, and you may find out when they come and ask for a credit card or password, because they don't understand the dangers out there. Sometimes the "love of all things China, wanting to stay IN CHINA as much as possible" factors into this with their lack of common sense:(

Also this shows in game playing with others, some can not tolerate playing board games, card games, anything they "LOSE" at. Because when you are in survival mode losing is NOT GOOD. So even an innocent game between siblings can set off a child if they lose.

Anger-Many times once the honeymoon of your adoption trip is over, sometimes even before that with older kids, you will have an angry, sullen,  teen on your hands. They *may* break things on purpose. They may hit siblings on purpose. They refuse to talk. Refuse to eat. Refuse to listen. Pretend not to understand (for a LONG time).  Now-- much of this IS teenagers, and even though your child acts 5 years old sometimes, they are indeed a teen with all the hormones, feelings and beliefs of a teen.

This also shows up in refusal to learn English "It's too hard" and pretending not to understand to get out of listening to parents. Pretty much EVERY child doesn't really know what it means to get parents/ family. Even if they think they want it. 

It's a shock what all is involved and there's no going back. Some take this really well and embrace it well. Others are mad, hurt, don't want it after all and it's a tough road to parent one of these kids.

 Some teens, as well will refuse to be respectful/ interact with mom or dad or even one sibling. Everyone in the family must be prepared well for this and it dealt with AS A FAMILY- dad can not blame MOM if teen refuses to talk/ listen to mom or parents have to listen when Mikey says Johnny is rude and won't speak to him for days over a minor incident.

 It's teaching of relationships which can be tough to get through to a teen. And "normal" punishments do not work with these teens, often they will wait the time of punishment out and go right back to it.They often feel they are justified in their behavior because they know they are "RIGHT." 

You have to be willing to strip them of all things  until they change their behaviors(down to basics) and not feel "sorry" for them because it may be the only way to get through to them. It's not always FUN, it's TOUGH but done to teach, not demean.  Someone (MOM) told asked me to clarify this-- this is NOT helpful in the beginning, I do not recommend it for the first year or for any minor behaviors. This is for a tough teen,  later on when they have a good bond/communication skills and are not willing to respect or behave when they certainly know how/why you want them to.

Fear-If they displease someone will you take them back. Sadly some kids are even told this in China:(  They don't get what forever means, they may go overboard trying to please you or "hide" away in any way they can to avoid getting in trouble. And when you do have to address something with them they take it very personally aka poorly.

School issues-You will need to have some type of plan in place for schooling. If you home school, great (You are a better woman than me) but you will be looking at preschool work with all of them usually. Even when they come with "they were learning English." Uh, we are talking "Hello" and "Bye". 

 They often have HUGE GAPS in their learning- expect this.  So you need to know if you will keep child at home to learn for awhile, send to school soon and have an idea of what schools in your area provide. 

Often school will tell you your child must be place at their grade level. This *might* be fine for a 8-9-10 year old. 14? No, usually not. They need more time to learn, will take longer to learn.

 Once you hit 12 and you have learned Chinese you will not be losing your Chinese, you will be adding English to it. For them this means--- they hear English,  it goes to brain, brain computes to Chinese, response is formed in Chinese, translated in brain to English then comes out in English. SEE how much harder that is?

Schools won't tell you there is NO LAW saying you must place your child at age level, they will tell you it's their "rule." We had to fight this with the first 3 to get them lower where we felt they belonged and then had to adjust as needed (moved Chase up to High school at half the year) and be involved in what's best/how your child is handling schooling.

This also means, your teen will be graduating/ home later so if that's an issue be aware. And if they have any  learning difficulties or refused to learn they might  not make it to go to college, but will need a job training type of schooling to become an independent worker as an adult.

Bonding-Kiddos in China are not hugged, are not told they are loved, not kissed. This can be very uncomfortable for them. We used fun things to introduce this, high fives, a pat on the shoulder, playing with a ponytail of hair. 

 As well, we had them call us mom and dad right away (after Chloe) because we learned with Chloe that if we didn't do that they would call us NOTHING-- talk about uncomfortable?? Chloe would stand in front of me, wanting something but would never call me "MOM" to get my attention. (Thank goodness when the boys came calling us mom and dad she was jealous and started calling us mom and dad:) 

Food-Some will eat and eat. Count out every bean on the plate compared to brothers. Will make themselves sick to eat as much as possible. Because they don't get that there WILL be a next meal. And next. Usually this reduces with time.

Empathy-This is a tough one. We have had it with ALL of our teens. They have compassion. They would give someone in need the shirt off their backs. BUT take a sibling who falls down, new teen will often stand there and LAUGH. Seriously, they laugh. Make fun. 

 This falls under "I'm better than you because I didn't fall therefore I survive."  There is NO empathy taught in an orphanage setting. This can also be something a teen uses when in trouble, they SMILE. This is a nervous reaction and does NOT mean what it means to us. Empathy CAN be taught but it's harder at this later age.

Religion-Our kids were taught evolution in China and in school here. We offer God, church, our beliefs. But as we have to accept or decline God's love, our adopted teens will and do argue about what to believe. We let them accept God when they are ready, same as our homegrown kiddos:) We do take them to church and expect respectful behavior. They do not have to sing or participate unless they want to but  they do have to sit quietly.

Friends-You may need to be prepared to "help" an adopted teen have a friend. Often they don't even know how to BE a friend, so if you can get a child a few years younger from church, or pair them up in school with a caring child, a sibling around the same maturity age works too, if nothing else, but most teens want to have friends and often kids of their ages are already in "friend clicks" and have a harder time being accepted.

I'm gonna put a special note in here as well. If you do get  a teen that's really, really tough--- will you be able to go to/afford counseling, take time from the other kids to address issues, take off work? Take a child out of control to a mental ward?  Re home if that's what it takes to help your child "make it"?  It *COULD* be your life, it DOES happen, although not to many, it's better to be prepared if this happens than to be slammed.

Now if you are still hanging around and thinking, yep, I knew that, I got it, I'm not scared, I'm ready, God has called us and we are gonna do it-- then WHOO HOOO. You are getting there.

And you deserve to know that with an adoption of an older child comes many joys--

No diapers anywhere:)

Watching them learn fast forward, it's just fun. To see things come to them and to be able to laugh with them. 

The joy of seeing them "GET" what family is. To see you back them, be proud of them, introduce them as your SON, DAUGHTER.  To celebrate their learning, their growth, learning their personality. To see something as little as frozen cauliflower  you are buying make them squeal with happiness:)

Independence- they can toilet alone, usually shower alone once you teach what is shampoo/conditioner/ deodorant are for.(remember we found deo in the shower when the boys first came and wondered what they did with it in there?) 

They excel at sports, our kids' orphanage time taught them how to be aggressive in sports and they play HARD. And well. No hesitation when told "go out there and get 'em."

Accomplishments in school/ sports/ any area mean a TON to them, it's so cool to see them SHINE. Look at this SHINE------

He won 2nd place in the culinary art competition in Silver Springs. He spoke to me telling me all about it. He then said this was his best day ever and told me to "Have a great day." I think he said more to me telling me all about the competition than he has spoken in 3 weeks.  Some days I barely get a "Hi." 

Yep, he's a tough one. But still MY SON. Wouldn't change that for anything. Drives me nuts sometimes, but I still love him. God sent. Hard to see him keep himself back by the things he has done but celebrating the steps he does make:) And this was a big one.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats seeing them accept God in to their hearts. To see them grow in love, to accept they are worthy of love. 

To watch them grow in size because they have enough food. To have them healthy, teeth  left to rot and the kids don't even whisper a word of pain-- fixed and healthy. Any medical issues cared for, helped as much as possible with good care, medicines. 

To find things they like and are soooo meant for your family. Families who are in to music, music lovin' kids, dance, sports, whatever, God certainly makes PERFECT fits.

Real hugs. Hearing "MOMMMMMM" or DADDDDDD" because they need something or want to tell you something.

Realizing although it might not have been the trip you thought it would be, the path you expected, it was harder or even easier that you thought-- they are YOUR SON, YOUR DAUGHTER and you love them beyond measure. 


Almond Tea said...

Possibly one of the best posts ever written. Well done, and full of truth.

Rebecca said...

Oh so good!!!! I love it!!! I love how you use your blog to not only advocate, but educate! So important!

Peace said...

Great post! Chase looks so grown up that photo, maybe it's pride in his accomplishments, but he looks great. Chase is so grown up, and he seems like a great guy, good work mom!

chavafor4 said...

Great information. Thank you.

Jim Schaubroeck said...

Yep -- you nailed it! We adopted two 13yo girls; gotcha day was 01.28.13. Many of those descriptions fit our girls. (thankfully they do not throw tp into the trash can) But we cannot imagine life without them. They are a blessing to us. Is it hard? Yes. Worth it? YES.

kimjax said...

This is the best assessment of older child adoption, best advice, and best testimony that I've ever read. Thank you for pointing out things that I hadn't considered, acknowledging difficulties we've faced, and expressing the joys of older child adoption so keenly. :) Best post I've ever read. LOVE this!!!

K said...

Congratulations, Chase! What a great accomplishment.

Chris said...

I agree, you nailed it. Ours was 10, but that is about teen anyway. The competitiveness (bean counting) still drives me nuts even after 2 yrs home.
Yup bring em home,but read this first.

Traci said...

Yes, this is indeed the best I have ever read on this subject! And I see the bean counting even with our 9 and 6 year olds - the 6 year old having just cvome home 3 months back. Thank you for this article that tells us like it really is.

willowjade said...

Thank you for this!! SO needed. Too bad this can't be a part of what agencies tell families interested in adopting/ or part of those "HAGUE COURSES" you have to complete to adopt!