Friday, March 23, 2012

What happens when the kids come home?

I've written about my children's attachment issues and what transition looks like many times on my blog.  I've shared the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I even wrote a story to help people understand what it's like for a child here.

I have six children through adoption already, and they have all come home at different ages, stages and trauma levels.  They have all developed at their own pace and each relationship has stretched, grown, and refined me along the way.
I have learned a lot and know that I will never know it all, but I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas I have about adoption, transition, and relationship.

First, I believe as adoptive parents, we set ourselves up quite a bit.  Especially if it is our first time.  You see, the process of the adoption itself can become such a mountain to overcome that we lose sight of the fact that in reality it is really just a moment in time.  Character building to be sure, but it is only a means to an end.  Other than you have a child at the end, nothing about the process of adoption contributes at all toward actual relationship with your child.


Sometimes the adoption process is so long and difficult, so stressful and agonizing, that we think once the child is home, we are home free.  After all,  we were stretched and waited and prayed and were uncomfortable and sad and lonely and away from our families and we trusted and believed...we did what God asked, so now it's time for the blessing, but when our kids come home, that just isn't the case at all!
There might be screaming, and food issues, and health issues, and attachment issues, and rejection, and spitting, and hitting, and...the list goes on.  This is not what we planned for.  The hard part is supposed to be over, right?

How can we think this way?  That is like saying a wedding is a marriage.  In a wedding, we save and plan and work and discuss for months, sometimes years.  Then it is all over in a matter of hours and you are left in the arms of the one you love.

Just like adoption...not!

In a marriage, there was already RELATIONSHIP with your spouse, the wedding marked the point at which the two of you became one, and afterward, (ideally) your relationship continues and deepens.

In an adoption, everything before the child comes home is one-sided.  YOU are working hard toward uniting with your child.  YOU are falling deeper and deeper in love with this person...

How is any of that magically supposed to occur just because you did a lot of paperwork?

The answer is that it can't.

This is where the real work begins.  The adoption process was just a trial run, a warm-up for the real work.

So, how am I going to bridge this gap for these 4 new children?  How do I create relationship with each of them individually while maintaining and growing the relationship I have with my spouse and children already in the family?

Very carefully.

First, I will not try to "catch up" as fast as possible.  Masha is 16, Sasha is 12, and Alina will be 11 and Vika will be 6.  It would be very unwise to try to treat them like any other American child their age.

What do I mean by that?  Lets take Masha as an example.  Most 16 year olds have a cell phone, Facebook, email, drive, activities, etc.  So why wouldn't I try to give her that right away?
I suppose if my goal were to just give her the "typical" American life, I would.  However this is not my goal.

Our goal is relationship.

Our goal is to give her true family.

If I have no established relationship, no foundation of trust or mutual respect, all of those things are going to create more distance between us.  These are some of the reasons we have chosen to homeschool.  By getting to know who our children are, how they think, what their strengths and weaknesses are, through the vehicle of schooling, we can custom fit solutions to meet those needs, correct or adjust those attitudes, and act out- LIVE OUT creating relationship.  That would be a lot more difficult to do if they were out of the house 8-10 hours a day 5 days a week.  If I added email, and cell phone, and Facebook, that's even more stuff in the way of our connection.
In order to connect at all, I must commit to do what it takes, and what it takes is to slowly build a foundation.  It's just like having a baby.  You don't give any of those things to a baby.

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT EMOTIONALLY OUR CHILDREN ARE INFANTS IN THEIR CONNECTION WITH US, and just like we increase sleep, food and activity gradually with a baby, we must do those same things gradually with our adopted children.  You don't give a starving person Thanksgiving dinner and you don't give a relationally and emotionally starved person all of American culture at once. (Depending upon what it is, maybe not at all.)  If we crowd all of that STUFF into the space that already exists between these new children and us, how can we hope to reach them?

Please understand that I don't mean to impose any of the specific methods we are using in our home, like homeschooling, I just encourage you to consider the thinking behind it and try to create similar situations in your own family.  It is only through meeting our kids where they are that we can hope to get them on the road to where they deserve to be.

Anyway, those are the thoughts and processes that we have done so far and will continue to do with the new kids, and by God's grace we trust that He will be glorified.


Cindy said...

Awesome Remider, my friend!!
Your words of wisdom have been a life line for me. I pray others will be blessed as you share your experiences. I learned thru our adoptions to worry less during the paper process and pray more for strength after the girls were home.

The Crawfords said...

Well said! In less than a month, we will be traveling to get our new little guys from the Philippines. Thanks for putting into words what I have been thinking!

MoserUpdates said...

Love your thoughts. I often wonder if I should have homeschooled Amelia this year, but she's just such an active child! She's doing great and has such a sweet heart :) Can you believe it's been 8 months already?! Excited to follow you on your journey!

Future Nurse said...

Thank you so much for your writing. Your blog is exactly what I've been looking for, as we explore the idea of adopting an older child from RR.

We know about the adoption process -- it is the "after" that we want more info about -- specifically some more common issues that older adopted children (and their families!) face.

I will be a loyal follower on your amazing journey that you so kindly share with strangers.

Thanks again,

Future Nurse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Future Nurse said...

Sorry, I had inadvertently posted the same comment twice, so I removed one!

Kevin and Sue Krippel said...

Amen! Hind sight is 20/20. Wish I would have been able to read this prior to coming home with our two. It is all about relationships isn't it? I need to remember even though it has been 3 years now since our Ethiopian treasures have come home that it's only been 3 years!! We still have a lot of catching up to do, so to speak and in all this as we focus on loving our spouses and our children, we love Jesus and bring glory to His name, our ultimate goal. Press on my dear sister in Christ

Danielle said...

Hi Traci,
I left a few messages on your email which I don't think you check that often. The one I left today was a request to post 2 sisters from Ukraine on your blog who have HIV and need a family. One turns 6 in Dec. and the other just turned 6 in March - who faces transfer to the institution as she also has CP. If you wouldn't mind posting about them, please email me at
All the best to your family! Happy Easter!

Michelle said...

just a question...can you suggest resources re: routines/activities when they first get home. we will be home soon with 3 siblings, 3,4 and 5 and am trying to think about day to day activities. normally, we'd have an outing daily, like walking to the nature center or going to the park or lake. but some say...too much. thoughts or suggestions?

traci said...

it all depends on the personality of your children. I would say to take it very slowly. A walk together may be no problem, but the nature center may be too much. At the local park may be fine on a light traffic day, but if it is full of children, maybe not. I recommend staying out of the store (Target) with your kids for a while. That is very overstimulating. Lots of time with you is the best, with many other adults who don't live in your home would be best to wait before doing too much. My son Mel came home at 3.5. He did not want to be inside. He rode his big wheel and I walked quickly behind him for weeks, but it was just him and me, or my spouse or the other kids. Feel free to email me at