Friday, November 29, 2013

Immaturity--- Part 1

This would be a HUGE topic around here. And it's not about Black Friday shoppers- ha ha. Nope, no Black Friday shoppers (or Thursday) shoppers 'round here. Total craziness for sure. I want no part of that. 

But, anyway, back to the title-- Immaturity--- You see, we have 6 children adopted from China. 4 as teens. One adopted as a toddler. One adopted at age 8, almost 9.

One of my most favorite things is watching our kids grow in maturity. Because when we get them they have little to no language, delayed social skills, almost all were behind in fine motor, gross motor skills a little.

Lack of care, lack of guidance. It really doesn't work well for children to be raised in an institution:( EVER. For any length of time.

Because even when there is a caretaker or 2 that really, really cares for a child, there isn't TIME to work with a child to get them where they should be. Even the environment is not positive for a child-- having to "beat out" others for favors, foods, etc. 

We've seen the big and sad issue of no empathy from more than one of our children. They would LAUGH when another child got hurt. But in a "dog eat dog" lifestyle you learn to not care that someone fell down and that you are "better than them" because you didn't fall thus the laughing at the person instead of helping them out--- such a sad thing to see AND hard to retrain them to HAVE empathy. (but you can:)

In some ways this is where Phoebe and Kat made out well. They were fostered by older people that they learned from, they were loved by and they consider their "grandparents." It's a HUGE difference.

Anyway-- on to the maturity. Adopting a teen, is a huge mix up of a teen body, teen attitudes, cultural differences, and maturity of a toddler. YEP. A toddler. 

Because in the first few days of adoption you very well may see crying, even screaming, fighting, hitting, biting, peeing, anger. All kinds of stuff you would see if a toddler was unhappy and couldn't communicate that.

Then very quickly, even in weeks, they come to a better place, about  age 5-6 in maturity. Pre school. Finding where they fit in, although they may still be hitting siblings, pinching, playing dirty tricks, worrying about sister/brother having more than them, getting more than them.

Fast forward parenting. That's what I call it. Because you really do go through many of the same "new baby, sibling, etc" adjustments you have when you bring home a baby. You will probably need to cocoon at home, many older kiddos can't handle the stimulus of so many things, stores, church, school, parties, etc, need to come LATER. This can be a hard one for others (outside the adoption community) to understand. 

Having had a structured life in the orphanage (told when to get up, get to school, eat, be back to orphanage as well as times they were NOT supervised and no one checked up on them) doesn't give them the tools to handle this new life they have been thrust in to.

And you are adding in the reality that your child has figured out much of what they were told about US, our families, what adoption means, what we adopted them for-- is totally UNTRUE.

Our teens have ALL confirmed they were told untruths about adoption. Because most orphanage workers are clueless as to what our lives really are like. And the misconceptions they feel they share with the children:(

Chloe was talking with me and dad the other night. She happened to bring out the book I sent her with pics of us and I had used scrapbook stickers to "jazz it up." She was laughing and said that the one sticker that said "Father---  guide, teacher, leader."  

I had it ALL translated for her to read. Translation read-- Father is a school principal. HUH???  Yep, NOW, I know not to send any such thing- it should have read "FATHER"  That's IT. Because I know NOW that translation is a very tricky thing and it's sooo much better to go simple than to have wrong translation.

Chloe also shared how she was told we were not coming for her. We were the first Hague (New rules for adoption started in 2008) Adoption for our agency. It took MUCH longer for the paperwork to happen for her and because of that the staff took it to mean we were NOT going to come for her.

I was heartbroken for her. Even the day I arrived in China to get her, they told her while she was in the train, on the way, I was probably not going to show up for her? 

WHY? I don't know, other than not many older children were being adopted from their orphanage at ALL and this was 2009 when many people didn't consider an older child for adoption so orphanages thought these children were not wanted. Thankfully we have CHANGED THAT for the Min sibs orphanage:) They now list older children for adoption-- Whooo hooo! Every child deserves the chance to be chosen.

So back to your child's adjustment stages. You are sitting at home, getting over the jet lag and starting thinking about schooling. Yep, school. It's a terrible PUSH to get your child educated as fast as possible!  They are sooo behind.  Please read this, if you read nothing else of this post. 


At the very least. 4 weeks. 1 month. 

If you can do 3-4 months, this is even better. AND--------- DO NOT stress their education. YEP. I said that. 

 It's soooo important that you learn about your child. Strengths, weaknesses. Personality.  

Do not discount what total immersion will do for your child-- so use English, as much as possible but keeping it simple. Not "This is a fork."  Just simply "Fork." 

  At first they will be very quiet, most likely. Some are more outgoing. Outgoing ones tend to pick up faster, but even the quiet ones are picking up. Often the first month they are like sponges, taking it all in. Especially the language.

Keep as much of a routine as you can. Daily routine. This is comforting to your teen, they are used to daily routine. Even a chart can help, pictures-- get up, change clothes, eat. Because when the start talking to you they want to know "What's next." Yep, they expect you to plan their every minute of every day.

They often DO NOT KNOW how to entertain themselves. Child (animal) movies with easy themes (Finding Nemo comes to my mind) easy puzzles. Chinese music is a way to let them "zone out" when they are overwhelmed hearing English all the time.  And it's okay to let them zone out some. 

BUT----I do not personally recommend free computer access, I pods, phones, etc. It just isn't good. They will zone out in to the computer and if they are struggling they will hide in media instead of looking to YOU to help them. They also do not have the skills for safety, they are still not so sure about your family-- do not add any situation that allows them to be negative about your family.

This includes, Chinese church, a friend's house (our kids didn't spend the night ANYWHERE else for at least a year), even contact with children adopted from their orphanage before them. We don't give the OPTION-- and yes, this is strict but we keep our kids CLOSE----- for our kids to be influenced in negative ways about FAMILY.

Our bond with our teens at first is like a newborn. They WILL go to ANYONE. They will look at their friend who has a cell phone and was adopted a year before them and think they got "robbed" in the family department. It fosters unhappiness.  I spoke to all the kids orphanage friends FIRST before our kids talked to them. And I explained we did not give phones, so that was to be explained it was too soon when our kids asked their friend "Do you have a phone? Will you tell mom I want a phone?"  (And trust me they did this)

PROTECT and CHERISH your teen.  We only get one shot at this. We didn't feel we had the option to "get it wrong." And for all 4 teens, we have the same rules. When your maturity shows us you can handle something then it will happen. And yes, that means we have younger than others with privileges that older ones DO NOT HAVE.

And our kids have pulled that "It's not fair." I've discussed that before. We can't make everything fair in life, hard lesson but it's true. If things were fair our children would have never come to us as it's not fair ANY child ever has to be an orphan.

So we don't DO "It's not fair."  And we use a number of things to show them this, including the scenario of buying 7 dresses of size 14/16. Who will this fit? Chloe. Only Chloe. But if we are being fair that is what we would have to do. Would this make anyone but Chloe happy? No. It gets the point across. Lots of "visual" teaching so they get it.

Often it's hard to cope with them being so physically attached to you, this is something to work on slowly-- so they don't feel rejected but also you have to teach them so when they are among peers they aren't offending people. And they will. They have soooo much to learn about our culture and often they "miss" social cues.  

Another issue commonly seen is the "hyper vigilance" while in one way can be really helpful to know everything that's going on with your other kids, but it can also backfire when new child thinks they need to know everything everyone is doing. And I mean EVERYTHING. They can't miss out on anything that's going on. 

Usually this diminishes over time but it can be highly annoying and certainly does not endear them to their new siblings when they are telling everything on the other kiddos. Finding a happy medium with that takes time.

Just the other day Phoebe was making Kat mad by telling her everything she said was "a bad word." Kat said she was being ridiculous. And Phoebe told her THAT was a bad word. So Kat comes to me irritated with Phoebe and Phoebe comes to me saying Kat is saying bad words. OIY.

I think at 6 months home you feel a kind of sigh of relief. People often say that-- just make it to 6 months and you'll be okay. I think what it means is that you really feel a bit settled in, you know your child somewhat, you can, at least, understand what they need in English. Lots of things are easier. 

But I think too that at around 1 year we often see some negatives. It's a time when we think "WOW, they have been home a whole year." 

And yet it's highly likely we are thinking--- goodness, why aren't they further ahead in this or that way? There's times Phoebe's behaviors are annoying-- now have no doubt, we love her, of course we do. But she does things that are close to 5-6 year old in maturity and I get impatient wanting to get her "caught up."

It's those times I have to ask God to forgive my impatience with this precious treasure, she's still learning and she's really the sweetest child, her and Kat both. 

 I mean, these 2 are making cards right now for God, and Phoebe wanted to know God's favorite color (answer ALL of them, He made them all!) and how to get a card to God ( tie to balloon and release).  

Yes, immaturity. It's part of the walk. Of adopting and parenting an older child. Some of it so sweet and innocent, some frustrating and difficult. For us it takes patience and love, as well as guidance from God. All part  of the commitment to the children we have adopted. To see them through and always try to do our best for them:)

 I'm going to end here and work on a Part 2, which is going to address the immaturity and longer time home, where we have gone with the older children, driving, schooling, dating, up to independence as an adult. 

Because as more people adopt older there's a world of difference to bring home a preschooler, even elementary school compared to a middle school/high school aged child as far as a "few years down the road."

So come on back and I'll get Part 2 up soon:)


Allison said...

Thank you for this information and your willingness to share! We are just waiting to bring home our 5 and 9 year old, so lots to think about. Look forward to reading part 2.

Maria said...

Thank you so much! I always learn so much from you! Our DD is just one month behind Phoebe in age and in homecoming, so we see so many of the same things. I have to admit the immaturity does make me bats! But, it is incredible to watch them grow. It happens so quickly! Julia came home and would play with her fingers and make them talk to eachother. She moved on to doing that with pencils and then to toys and dolls and now pretends with her sister. So neat to watch. Just the other day the dentist remarked on how grown up she is now. Awesome!

Shalom said...

"It really doesn't work well for children to be raised in an institution:( EVER. For any length of time" Amen. Amen.

Rebecca said...

Great post! You really need to write a book!

mom2three said...

When we first brought our son home at 8 years old, we enrolled him for 1/2 days in school, which was an ESL class and a Chinese class. The school was fine with that, but the teachers really pushed us to enroll him for the whole day. I had to explain many times that he wasn't only learning English, etc, he was also learning what it meant to be part of a family, to have a Mom and a Dad. They just couldn't grasp that.