Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Best Advice

In a continuation of my blog post on learning to love our REAL child, the cool thing is, we learn more and more with each adoption. By the time I adopt my tenth child maybe I'll be ready to write a book and make a million bucks! (If you hear distant laughter, just ignore it, it's probably just my husband.)

The reality tho, is the more we learn the more we discover there IS to learn, and each child is different. Still, one advantage with Vu's adoption was I had already discovered much through our previous adoptions (and births). I knew he would be different than the child in his picture, the one I imagined--but there were still surprises. We still had to overcome many, unexpected, difficulties--some of which I blogged about in my Gotcha post.

With Vu, attachment was easier than I expected because he was so open to physical contact, he was so ready for a new family, and, of course, because he's so cute and funny and playful!

I give complete credit to God for His grace in helping Vu transition at a rate that seems impossible. I've said with humor but complete seriousness that I think God looked down from heaven and said, "You know, these people have had a rough couple of years. I'm going to make this a little easier for them!"

And maybe, just maybe, the third reason Vu transitioned well was because we took attachment advice very seriously. Then again, maybe these things didn't have an impact at all, but on the chance they did and on the chance you would like to know--here is my BEST ADVICE--mostly taken from the "experts" (the ones who have already made a million dollars):

Before Travel:
*Read everything I could regarding adopting an older chld/attachment. Favorites: Deborah Grey, Hopkins-Best, Keck and Kopecky.
*Made a list of all the potential difficulties
*Made a list of how we would handle each possible difficulty (for the record, we ran into many difficulties we had never even considered--see post referenced above)
*learned several words/phrases in VNese--wish I had learned more
*Talked to parents who had adopted an older child internationally--wish I had known more
*sent pictures to Vu of neighbors and friends, the rooms in our house, what an average day is like in our home, things we would do together, holdays etc.

After we had him in our arms!
BEST ADVICE WE RECEIVED--treat him like a baby.
*held him and carried him A LOT
*didn't let people outside our immediate family pick him up or carry him
*slept with him--he now sleeps in his own bed but comes into our bed in the early morning hours (4-5am)
*rocked him before bed every night AND
*sang lullabies AND
*gave him a baby bottle--he loved this!
*told him over and over we loved him and would never leave him
*stayed home as much as possible
*kept visitors to a minimum
*kept his environment as calm as possible (ie turned the radio off in the car)
*spent time playing with him one-on-one every day. Kids from orphanages don't know HOW to play--they must learn. I ended up loving this as much as he did.
*didn't leave him with anyone outside our family for months (we do have an advantage in that we have older teens who can babysit)
*let him eat whenever he wanted--we would have meals but we also let him snack on healthy foods as much as he desired in between meals. This seemed to give him a sense of trust and he never hoarded food. We also gave him food (that couldn't spoil)to keep in his backpack.
*gave him a back pack to keep his treasures in. It was surprising the things he wanted to put in there but he also put in all his own belongings. This gave him a sense of ownership and control. He still keeps his backpack with various things.
*simplified life--used convenience foods, paper plates, didn't volunteer, kept life as simple as possible. When someone would ask if I could help with something I would think to myself, "If I had a new baby would I say yes or no?" Usually, it was no. I also allowed myself a much more open schedule--lots of down time.
*had a VNEse girl come over to our house a couple times per week the first couple months to help us translate but before long, Vu didn't want to speak VNese to her anymore. He went through a period where seeing VNese people and hearing their language scared him--I think he was afraid they might take him back to VN.
*back rubs and lotion rubdowns
*reading books--his favs early on were Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear
*made a photo album of his nannies and friends in VN--he would want to look at them at the most random times
*at his request, sent pictures and letters to his nannies through our agency (this made him very happy!)
*framed pictures of him and put them around our house
*let him cry, be sad, hit beds and pillows (but not people) acknowledged his feelings and loss
*didn't let him hurt himself--when he would get upset--some people thought we should just let him scratch/bite himself but I am so glad we had mercy and let him know we loved him so much that even if he was angry we would never let him hurt himself
*told him over and over and over again, in our best VNese that we loved him and we knew he was scared, we knew he was sad and angry, and we would always be his family, we would never leave him, even if he was naughty, we would always, always LOVE HIM!!! He would never go back to VN to live (only to visit someday)
*kept him home from school the first few months--which has turned into the first two years in an effort to further attach and help him catch up developmentally
*As much as possible, didn't let our minds run into the fears of the future and what might happen, if he might have attachment disorders, post traumatic stress syndrome etc. We just tried to live in that day and enjoy that day and deal with what we were dealt that day--including all his great smiles!
Just remember this: Advice is like going to the grocery store--take what you like and leave the rest!


Annette said...

Thank you so much Ann! I really appreciate your wisdom and knowledge. I am soaking it all in.


Thankfulmom said...

This is a fabulous post, packed with great advice. I wish I had known you two years ago! If you don't mind, I am going to mention your post on my blog.
BTW, we are still laughing over your Girl Scout cookie post.

Jennifer said...

Great advice. Thank you!

Stevens Family said...

Love it!! Thank you so much for your continued wisdom. Vu is such a delightful boy and no doubt his attachment and adjustment has gone wonderfully because of your preparation and hard work (and a little help from the Lord above). Beautiful post Ann.

MamaSnuffy said...

Thank you for sharing your insights. I'm soon going to Ethiopia to meet and bring home my 10-year-old daughter and I'm delighted to have your suggestions!