Friday, November 28, 2008

Visiting While in Process

The following was sent by a reader via email:

How often do you recommend visiting?

Do you have any special ideas on how to make trips memorable and special for the kids? Any certain activities or attachment exercises that worked for you?

What is the best way to leave your children? How do you say goodbye to the younger ones who don't really understand what's going on?

What about discipline? What do you do if your two-year-old bites you or slaps another child in the face in the middle of an orphanage full of nannies & children? I have tried firm "No's" and making it clear that I disapproved of their actions ( and rewarding & praise of good behavior) but I just got laughed at. The rod is clearly needed- but is obviously not an option with a live audience of no means of being consistent in it's application even if no one was around...

Do you have any other thoughts on this topic overall?

~My heart was really heavy when we first received this email.  The timing of it, unknown by the sender, was so sensitive.  I have spent the last couple of weeks helping my children through some grief specifically related to my multiple visits and departures during our wait.  I've felt more than unqualified to answer these questions.  

At the end of it all, though, my feelings of inadequacy came down to me not wanting to embrace a "new" aspect of pain associated with adoption.  But the truth is, it did hurt for all of us.  As an adult, I longed to spend every moment I could with them, even if I had to leave.  Was this not the right choice? Selfish?  Although hearing their pain in our goodbyes, I KNOW it was the right choice.  Before I answer, I want you to know that there are other orphanages-good orphanages that do not allow you to visit until your adoption is complete.  They believe it is what is best for the child.  Others allow it.  My was one like this.  So for the first question:
Yes, I recommend going and as often as you are able.  Although they do hurt and will at some point grieve, the good outweighs it.  At least it did for us.  I can now say to them every chance I could come to see you, I did.  I wanted to see you and I missed you.  They also learn that Mommy always comes back.  

~To make the time special, choose a song you'll sing to them on your trip and when they come home.  My children would hum the melody months after I'd left.  I also think you should take a nice piece of white paper for each child on each trip.  Have them color and then take them home.  My children love that our closet is decorated with their "baby" artwork!  

~I think it is imperative to learn how to say goodbye in their native tongue.  I would say "I am your Mommy.  You are my baby girl.  I need to go now.  I don't want to go.  I will come back." If you cannot, try to find a kind translator that will say exactly what you want them to.  Unfortunately, the truth is no one will probably comfort them even after your words and departure.  It will be sad for all of you, even the littlest ones.  If they'll let you, secure a picture to your child's crib.  We had a crib toy that sat like a triangle (on one side was a mirror and the other a slot for a picture.) in her crib.  We put our faces in there.  Our baby had that in their for at least 6months.  

~AAAH.  Discipline.  I'll let Dawn share on this.  My kids saved a lot of their "special" behavior for when we were alone.  Just remember it is not disneyland.  Be as firm as you would be at home.  Staying in their time-in spot was a huge feat!  

About the Discipline Question:
Girlie #1 was in desperate need of Biblical discipline as soon as she was transferred into our care.  The embassy visit was an absolute nightmare....out of control.  All eyes were on us.  Our orphan who had never been placed with a family....obviously felt our pain.  He was tortured for us and the obvious hell we were in for with this child who was testing every boundary known to mankind. Girlie #2 revealed her true colors as a big time sassy pants soon after she realized that she was the set apart child in the group who had these special people called "parents" who were there just for take her and her alone away to a place called "home."  Our sweet, precious baby became the witch of the group in a matter of days.  I clearly remember the caregivers watching us and whispering amongst themselves when she would act up.  They were obviously curious to see how we would deal with our new little sinner.  Well, even though she was not yet legally ours....we moved ahead as if she were....and corrected her firmly when the need arose.  When she was bratty towards another child....we lifted that child into our arms and told her, "That is rude.  Daddy and Mommy may not!"  When she whined for toys....we ignored her....unimpressed.  When she grabbed for toys...we removed them from her grasp and handed them to others...who were not grabbing.  From day one...she was treated as if she were at home. Soon (we were in country for a month) the caregivers learned to trust us with her.  They even gave us the freedom of possessing a key to the orphanage wing....and unsupervised visits around the grounds.  I believe they liked us and I'd like to think it had something to do with the way we were parenting this little girl who had been in their care for the previous 3.5 years.

If I was smacked by my child or witnessed him/her biting another kid would be standing nose to the corner with the whole world watching so fast.... his/her head would spin. Not acceptable. The seeds you are planting now....will sprout one day....sooner or later.  

And they would not leave that corner until they were ready to say, "I'm sorry for smacking/biting."  Even if they weren't really sorry....because who could possible guess at that point in time whether an apology was real or not????  At least they would be learning the appropriate words to say.       




Bill and Christina said...

Great post! Guys thank you for sharing. It means a lot that you are willing to lay open your hearts for all to see. Thank you.

kayder1996 said...

Something I am forever grateful for was the idea another adoptive family gave us. They set up an impromptu photography studio in their hotel room using a sheet for a backdrop. We didn't know about this on our first trip until we were in the airport but since our baby was only 9 months old, we used a white hotel sheet and just took some great naked baby pictures. On our second trip, we used a wicker chair and a matching hat and short outfit. We worked hard to try to get a professional looking picture. And we did. I am so thankful we have some photos that are not just snapshots, that we have some photos that look more like a portrait setting. I think this will be important to my kids as they get into elementary school and have to do projects for school where baby pictures are encouraged.

Anonymous said...

Although I love this site, and you have some excellent suggestions even in this post, it makes me very sad that you are advocating physical discipline with children who are struggling with attachment. Research has shown again and again that physical discipline negatively impacts self-esteem, can be dangerous, and increases behavior problems. In the mental health field, and particularly with children who have attachment problems, it is strongly discouraged. Many of these children have been previously abused physically or emotionally rejected/abandoned, and physical discipline only makes the attachment problems much worse. I have seen it again and again in my practice. Children become afraid of their caregivers, not attached in most cases. The "rod" described in the Bible does not have to meet an implement for can mean guidance and love with structured, firm discipline. There are so many other more effective ways to discipline all children, especially those who already have so much to worry about.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for replying to my questions, ladies. This really means a lot to me.

Simply Moms said...

Anonymous: Do not mean to make you sad by any means. So sorry for that.

The Biblical use of the rod in child-rearing is not for everyone, I admit....hence the numerous and various opinions out there. If the option does not sit well with all means.... I encourage you to stay off that path. As with any form of discipline....use what works and throw away the rest. Try many things. Start with verbal correction. Make use of time outs/ins. Added chores...high structure....etc. Stay consistent while switching it up....if that makes sense????? If you would like to know more....Tedd Tripp's.... Shepherding A Child's Heart does a good job (in my opinion) of explaining the heart behind the use of the rod as outlined in Scripture. It's all about the Biblical use of the rod...... and...... following what the Lord reveals is needed for our particular one-of-a-kind child created in His image...only loaned to us for a while to steward according to His instruction to the best of our ability under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit.

Praying for the enormous responsibilities placed before us..... while trusting the One who loves them even more than we do..... to bring about life-giving heart changes.

Happy disciplining....if there's such a thing :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dawn for responding...I continue to be blessed by your site, I just wanted to encourage you and your readers to understand the concerns associated with physical discipline. You are right, structure, chores, time-outs, verbal correction, and especially positive attention and love can all be effective. I appreciate you including these options on your site for those of us who do not want to go the direction of physical discipline. Unfortunately I am not a fan of Ted Tripp's book, to be honest, I think it is pretty disturbing. However, another excellent Christian author/psychologist or pediatrician I believe? to check out is Dr. William Sears. He has a fantastic book on Christian discipline. I don't mean to cause any hard feelings at all, I just worry especially about parents who are angry or very frustrated when using physical discipline, and children being re-traumatized. They sometimes associate physical abuse with physical discipline. Thank you for your site.

Simply Moms said...

For sure...we should not be disciplining in anger. We are instructed not to exasperate our children.
The Word is clear about that. When/if we do....swift repentance is called for on our parts. That's when our kiddos get to put all they've learned about forgiveness into practice.

That's really the point of discipline as I understand it through the filter of a Biblical bring repentance....not behavior modification. A turning from sin....a heart what the Lord is after and what we are to be after as well.

I'm always amazed to hear stories of how He changes hearts through the Providential circumstances of our lives?

He is definitely is in the business of making old things new. Of restoring broken things. Of removing fear. Of healing wounds. Building bonds. Of extending mercy and offering grace.

No hard feelings. Not a one.

Anonymous said...

finally got caught up on my reading! thanks so much for your constant wisdom! i know how much this site means to you and cate and how much you have prayed over this! I appreciate you both being bold on what GOD has placed on your hearts. you both have touched my life and have encouraged me when i needed it the most! I pray God continues to lead you and I also pray for blessings on the both of you. Dawn you and your family are a living examples of Gods amazing work. You have walked this journey for so long and your obedience and quick repentance have impacted me so much. I see that God has brought you and girly so far and that gives me so much hope. Continue the amazing work, stay strong and confident in the Lord. love you guys!!!! Jeni