Elizabeth asked -
I'm interested in how you plan to (or already do) incorporate Chinese culture with your girls. I think that would be one of the hard things with adopting an older child who has already been immersed in another culture and may be confused about retaining their birth culture while still assimilating into their new culture. Another thing I'm curious about regarding adopting older children is getting them comfortable giving and receiving affection and if this is something that just comes naturally over time or if there are certain things you do to promote it? I'm also interested in how over time you promote the girls' attachment to you as a mother vs. a temporary caregiver. I'm guessing that they knew their foster mother loved them but also knew that she was a temporary figure and hence the attachment was different. Lastly, I'm wondering how you deal with your own feelings of grief related to seeing your children grieve and knowing they have gone through so many hard things. In trying to put myself in your perspective I think I would feel almost angry at the world that they are so young and have had to deal with such hard times.
I answered -
Our daughters go to Saturday Chinese language school and they may do Chinese Dance- we are undecided about that. We celebrate the Chinese New Year and Dragon Boat festival with our local FCC group which has now turned into FCA. We meet regularly with other China adoptive families. Anna and Sarah have now been back to China. We will continue to do things like this. I am sure all our daughters will have a heritage trip as they get older. They seem to enjoy everything Chinese!
In all honestly adopting an orphan is not like adopting as child that actually been raised in the cultural richness that China can offer. These kids usually have zero experiences. They are familiar with the usual sights, the smells, the food, the music, and the language of their country but they have no cultural knowledge, very little education, no idea of the holidays or why they even celebrate them. Usually they have had no opportunity to even eat the variety of food that China has too offer. They have no family memories and no one has taken the time to teach them the basics (manors, respect, kindness, etc) They live in a world where their biggest need is survival.
As far as affection goes- you take it slow, and you read your child. Often times they will initiate affection as they are ready. Many children are ready right away for hugs and hand holding! They generally are starved for affection and will want it as soon as possible. Even to the point of being carried at age 10 and sitting on Mom's lap at age 9! Everybody loves a piggy back ride no matter what age you are!
Promoting attachment and mothering - This is what we do- we keep them close to us. We do their daily cares- help them brush teeth, help them put on their clothes even when they come at 10 yrs old, put them to bed, prepare their food, sometimes play with them, supervise their play, buy them what they need, help them when they are hurt, teach them, love them- tell them we love them, smile and tell them they are good girls! We do what Mom's and Dads do for their children everyday!
We do not allow others to hug, hold or kiss them. Parents and immediate family are the only ones that can show affection. Through everyday life they learn what family is and what parents do for their children. We are in it for the long haul- so we keep doing what needs to be done!
I believe one of our daughters knew they were loved by the foster family but the other was not loved. It is the one that was unloved that is eating up family, love, and home- she is completely at peace in our house! It is a miracle to us- only God could do this!
I guess I look at it differently than many people. I think it is healthy that they grieve their loss but I feel so strongly that they are where they are supposed to be and thankful that they are in our arms! I am grateful for those that cared for our daughters and we continue to keep in touch with all of them and send updates and pictures. The children come to us in pretty tough shape (dirty, bruised, bumped, scratched) and I can hardly wait to love and care for them and get them into the bath, to the dentist, the doctor, the specialist, the hairdresser, the park, swimming, you name it!!
When I see them quiet, or a tear running down their cheek, I offer a hug, wipe the tears, rub their back and let them feel their feelings and then we move on. I have not noticed angry feelings with the age group we have adopted. Yes, each has had a melt down once or twice but that is to be expected and because of the language barrier I really don't know what it's all about. Sometimes that's okay- we all need to let it out now and then but often the trigger is something small that they quickly get over.
Janet asked -
Our biggest worry is how to help an older child adapt and what to do about their discipline issues. Both of our boys have been much younger when we received them, so we disciplined and guided them as a younger child. What types of strategies do you use and what kind of tips can you give us to help our daughter (who might be older - say between 5 - 10 years old) feel more comfortable with us?
My answer- Really pray about it- pray that the Lord will guide you to just the right daughter- your daughter. Do not feel pressure to go way older if that is not where your heart is. Go where you are called, where you can see yourself with your child- interacting and enjoying her. The age of our girls works for us but many prefer a little older or a little younger.
Are you planning to send your children to school or Homeschool? What type of social network will she have- neighborhood friends? Church friends? Another adopted sister? Other homeschoolers?
So much of it has just happened to us- once we knew who are girls were we made decisions on what we wanted them involved in. Then once we met them it became obvious where their strengths and needs were and what we should be involved in.
I have always had the emphasis on family- even if I thought they seemed a little bored at times. They have never had a family- it takes awhile to learn what it is all about and get used to it.
We really enjoy the China school the kids do and they like it too! It's something they are good at right away and makes them feel comfortable- everything about is familiar- it reminds them of the past comforts- the language, art, music,etc. ( I have actually reconsidered and will probably sign them up this fall instead of waiting)
Our girls love it that we are with them so much. The begin to love the predictability and the comfort of knowing what will be next- bkf routine, bed routine, lunch routine, getting in and out of the car, holding hands when we cross the street, etc .
It probably seems overwhelming right now but it falls into place once you begin to get to know your child.
Discipline- be firm from the beginning if you need to be. Lighten up when you can. If you are uncomfortable with being really firm and having a child that is a little wild at first then keep that in mind when you read the referrals. Many of the words in our referrals were correct. Look for words like kind, sweet, caring, works hard, obeys her teacher or foster mom, etc! For one of our daughters it said "this girl is strong in personality"= yep they were right! SMILE!
Logistics!!! Who cleans, cooks, shops.... Do you have any help??? How do you do it????? Jim? :-)
I believe in setting us up for success. So we do things that work for us! We have a cleaning lady every week- okay- I know I just about lost everyones respect but it's the truth and it makes us happy! When the house is kind of clean I feel so good!
Okay, those of you who still respect me a little will now be joining the other group... I hate to cook... It is time consuming and I see no reason for it... I'm sorry. It's my brothers fault and it happened when I was a child, he made fun of me and I've never gotten over it. If you'd like I could give you his phone number! I do BKF and I do lunch- simple, easy, the food groups and pretty healthy except for the fact that I really like butter. Dinner- hubby cooks 2 times during the week, I cook one time during the week, we eat chinese take out one time a week, we order pizza one time a week and we go to the grocery store and buy their dinner that they have featured and on special 2 x a week. It is a couple blocks from hubby's office so he gets it on the way home. I wasn't always this bad but I am this bad now- anyone out there that is still respectin me kinda sorta??
I am with the kids most of the time but I have a sitter for about 4 hours on Wednesday to get a few things done without the kids, dr appts, etc. Our sitter is wonderful- her name is Karen and she is a blessing beyond belief to us. She is the only one we leave the kids with. Karen also helps us other times- okay my hair appt, are ya still with me people? and times when we are with the older kids for various events and it is nice to give them our attention w/o the girls. She has done a few date nights for us, too!!
Grocery shopping? - I order on line once every 2 weeks! It's like Christmas when the groceries come and I have many little helpers to put it away with me! I Love it! Hubby picks up a few extra things now and then. I do all the other shopping either with the girls or during my time on Wednesday afternoons.
WE try not to do activities in the evenings and keep that for family time. (Except during Johnny's soccer season which will be coming up soon!) I homeschool the kids except for JOhnny. We do our activities in the late afternoon- swimming and gymnastics.
It works and we are very happy with it!
(okay Laura- I am pretty sure Robert is making fun of me right now and you are my only friend left!) In case anyone is wondering we traveled with this family when we got Anna and they got Kaia. We were even able to visit them twice since we have been back from that trip to China! Since then they have had another birth baby (which now totals 6 kiddos)and Laura has become a medical Doctor in the last 2 years - great job Laura! You are awesome!