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Adopting Older Kids

Adopting an older child can be a challenge. It can also be a wonderful experience. Share what it is like to adopt a child older than 3.

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Helping your adopted child in school 1 Reply

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Comment by Deborah Mumm on September 29, 2010 at 6:36pm
No! and a stern voice seems to work universally. We did "Time Out' when our 5 yr. old would bite. However, we took him to a corner or away from others, turned his back from the situation and then stood there and held him for 30 sec. or so. He hated it, but we never left him alone during a time out. He learned quickly...and I don't think it was mean because we never left him.
Comment by Patrick Kelahan on September 29, 2010 at 11:53am
My wife speaks no Spanish, but found that if you simply act like a mom, the kids generally respond. Or, in the case of being seen as an adult care giver, if you act as if you are in charge, the kids will generally respond in kind.
There was real early benefit in taking the kids into situations without a translator present, e.g., a walk to the park, or around the block. This does build some quick trust, holding the kids' hands, stopping at street corners and saying stop, or wait, then go, reinforcing not only simple words/commands (you will be in command mode for the early part of your relationship), but building some confidence in your kids' eyes that you are looking out for them. Try to 'fly solo' as much as you can, remembering that once you are home Lech will remain in Poland, and you will have to figure it out anyway!
The more you take charge of the kids in country the easier the transition will be once you are home. Spoken language is important, but body language and situational response is just as important, and requires no knowledge of the kids' native tongue. Hold Lech as a last resort to your direction to the kids, and encourage him to not interfere unless asked by you. The tendency is to want to help; the translator is your best help in administrative matters, and when the child simply does not respond adequately to your efforts.
I do not know what living arrangements you will be enjoying while in Poland, but the more you can be directly interacting as mom and dad the better, meaning you serve the food, you show the kids how to help with setting the table, you hold the kids accountable to help care for themselves (folding pajamas, making their beds, brushing teeth, hanging their towels, folding clothes). Anything you can do to bring your family life with you will be beneficial and will begin to instill in their minds what their new lives will entail. Often we think we need to ply kids with gifts to get their attention and cooperation, we have found the best gifts most kids get is an understanding of what is next, and understanding of what is expected of them. A common language helps, but is not critical.
Comment by Deborah Mumm on September 29, 2010 at 11:07am
Much of what Patrick says here is true for parents of biological kids as well! I think adopted kids (at least from orphanages) need twice the amount of structure as bio kids!
Comment by Patrick Kelahan on September 29, 2010 at 9:17am
We did experience fighting, and even biting from our five and six year olds. Our youngest is still a behavior problem at times, even after 18 months being home. There is no silver bullet solution (would be nice if there was), but there is a realization that whatever they do you would not be the first parents to encounter poor behavior from children.
Establishing early on that you are the kids' parents, and not friends is fundamental. If the children are currently in an orphanage they will be used to routines, and they will consider you and your husband to be adult care givers until they are able to grasp that you are their mom and dad. Our youngest two had no concept of mom and dad since they had been in foster or orphanage care for more than half their lives. Your son and daughter may have a different experience, but no matter what try to see the world from their perspective- are these two new people our mom and dad, or another pair in the chain of care givers?
The family routine will give them comfort, structure, expectations, and behavior to model (yours). As they integrate into school they will want to fit in, speaking English, doing the same things as their peers, seeing mom and dad in a family setting, and having regular sit down meals.
So, as they integrate into their new family they will test bounds, will express fear, and will express envy. If they are rewarded materially for everything they will not only learn to 'perform', they will learn to misbehave if no reward is offered. Your questions are the same as any parent's, and the answer in our experience is establish routine and trust, and the kids will do fine. They will also act up, for they are kids.
The bond between the two is very strong and protective right now; they will need to experience love and comfort from you, and that will allow them to build trust, then caring, then family love. Be patient, but be uniformly firm in your expectations. Try to not waver in your resolve to have them learn to be part of your family, and you not try to adapt to be part of what they have now.
And, if they throw a tantrum in the store, you have to remove them from that environment at once.
Comment by Deborah Mumm on September 28, 2010 at 6:17pm
I agree with Patrick 100%...set up a routine for the day and stick with it!
Comment by Patrick Kelahan on September 28, 2010 at 5:48pm
Press the use of English, regardless of the children's immediate difficulties with it. The children will selectively use language as a tool to exclude parents, making mom and dad outsiders when the pressure is on.
Build a household routine and stick to it. Label everything in the house with the English words that describe the respective items. Try to avoid involving the kids in too may things too early. Be careful to not overwhelm the kids with too many extended family visits. Act like parents with the kids; not as friends. Avoid plying the kids with too many material things. Serve food your family will eat today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. The kids will get used to the family cuisine.
Meet with school officials and ensure the school system understands its responsibilities to your special needs kids.
Comment by Deborah Mumm on September 28, 2010 at 4:00pm
It is especially important to have someone who can be your translator for the first few weeks. We had a friend on speed dial...we would call her several times of day to talk to our kids or for them to ask us questions. Each week became less and less needed...which was great!
Comment by Patrick Kelahan on September 28, 2010 at 2:35pm
We have adopted seven children in four separate 'actions', each of them frustrating in its own way. Keep your eye on the end result, recognize there will be unexpected disappointments and frustration, but at the end of the day having the children home will soothe all those issues.
Comment by Patrick Kelahan on September 28, 2010 at 12:57pm
Gabrielle- congrats for leaping over that hurdle. Adoption is process and emotion; today you had success with process. That success opens positive emotions just a little bit more.
Comment by Deborah Mumm on July 18, 2010 at 8:03pm
There are no standard regulations on costs for international adoption and I agree, it is a problem. I am afraid a lot of the money we spend on adoption in foreign countries is never seen at the orphanages...which angers me. Hang in there with the foster care system though....I have heard there are healthy kids out there! It may require a lot of patience.

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