I am afraid this (LONG) post is going to come off as negative. Please know I do not intend it to be. I honestly just want to be as informative as possible so everybody has some insight since we leave in SIXTEEN days! This is meant to serve as an explanation for some of what we are about to face and some of the actions we will take. I pray this is read in the spirit with which it was intended.
This is from an article entitled “Top Ten List of Things Not to Expect from Your Newly Adopted Child: An Adoption Education Publication”
The following [ten] tips will help the adoptive parent and child adjust during the initial transition period following the child’s arrival in the home.
• SLEEP: Do not expect them to sleep well at night just because they slept through the night in their birth country with the foster parents or in the orphanage…. Some (but few) infants / children sleep well after joining their forever families, while others have a very hard time sleeping through the night. Some children will only be calm and secure sleeping in their parents’ beds. In some countries [like Guatemala] many infants sleep with their mothers, and young children often sleep with other siblings in the same bed. Being alone in a bed in a quiet bedroom in a new house can be terrifying.
I include this here in an attempt to avoid negative conversations about co-sleeping and the judgments that often ensue. Most do not mean to be negative but are only offering what they deem to be helpful, good advice. Adopting a toddler internationally, though, is so much different than having an infant brought home from the hospital.
• PASS THE POTATO: Do not expect your child to enjoy well meaning visitors / relatives who insist on holding and feeding them. They are often confused enough as it is; make sure to explain to your visitors – even overly eager and well-meaning [ones] – that being fed [and held] by strangers is not good for your child at this point. You owe that to your child.
It is so hard for those who love us and our kids to understand this. We have so many wonderful people in our lives who want to help us. In the beginning, though, holding, rocking, feeding, etc are just not in the best interest of our child. It will come; it just takes some time!
• HAPPY CAMPERS: Do not expect your child to be a “happy camper” if you go back to work very soon after bringing him / her home. Attachment and bonding are a long process; having to adjust to a new home, new parents and also to a daycare and a daycare provider is a lot to ask. Try to arrange a substantial amount of time off if you work outside the home; experts recommend a minimum of two to three months. Remember that bringing an adopted child home is not the same as bringing home a newborn infant from the hospital. Even the youngest of babies have memories of their birth mother’s voice and smell, the language they have heard around them and had spoken to them, the people who fostered them, and the world that has surrounded them since birth.
A lot of well meaning friends and family, hoping to assuage my fears, have suggested that since Ethan has been in a foster family, he should be more well adjusted and maybe I shouldn’t need to take three months off. Three months, according to many experts, is the minimum for any adopted toddler. Try to imagine a child who, for well over a year, has lived with the same Mom and Dad. This is his family. Sadly, until we can establish trust and develop a bond, Ethan will in all probability, see us as kidnappers. He is going to grieve and likely grieve hard. Add to that we are taking him far, far away from everything he knows: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and I think three months actually seems like a paltry amount of time to stay home with him. We feel this is the right thing to do for our family. Yes, we know it will have financial implications, but we are willing to face these in order to help our newest member of our family adjust and bond.
• DEVELOPING ON TARGET: Whose target are you comparing to? Do not expect your infant or young toddler to be at the same developmental stage as children his / her age here in the U.S. Not unlike many culture’s caregivers see putting infants on the floor as cold and uncaring. Therefore, many babies have had not “tummy time” until they arrive in the U.S., thus they usually start crawling and walking later.
• BATH TIME: Do not expect them to love bathing from the get go. Bath time in orphanages or foster homes is typically hurried and done with cold water. It is no use scaring them to death by forcing them into a bathtub or shower……Sponge baths work well with younger and even older children until they are more comfortable.
• ATTACHMENT: Don’t expect your child to attach equally to both parents in two parent families. It is not uncommon for a child to be very attached to one parent over the other until they are more secure.
Ah. How well we remember…
• DON’T “EXPECT” ANYTHING. PERIOD. Embrace, love, observe, console and cherish this often confused and frightened new member of your family. When you “expect” things and they don’t materialize, frustration and disappointment follow closely behind. No need to burden your already traumatized child with more “baggage.” Just let your child “be” until they adjust to their new home.
Every child adjusts at different rates. If we seem to be coddling Ethan, please understand we have to respond to his every need so he begins to understand that WE are his parents. If we don’t discipline the way you would anticipate, please know we will discipline him when the time is right, but he needs to know our love and patience before we can discipline him. We really do appreciate the advice and help that so many are willing to offer. Our friends and family are generous to a fault and we love you! There are, however, so many differences between international adoption of a toddler and bringing home baby from the hospital. I hope this helps explain some of those differences and why we react the way we do sometimes. Again, thank you to everybody who helps us in so many ways. We couldn’t do this without you!