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My husband and I, the Dynamic Duo, have been married since 2003. We've weathered the storm of chronic disease (diagnosis 2006), infertility (diagnosis 2007), turning 30 (2006/2007 respectively) a first adoption (2009) of a tender hearted, compassionate Ukrainian BIG boy (born 2006), who has told us he'd like a baby sister, baby brother, big brother, and REALLY big sister. We recently completed our second Ukrainian adoption journey, which brought us a daughter (born 2005). We'll see what else God brings our way!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Parental Advice

Ah, the joys of having a 6 year old toddler.  In some ways Amelia is more advanced than Eli.  For example, she can run, walk at a normal speed, help with certain things around the house.  But in many areas Amelia is at about a toddler age.  She's in a 5 point harness because she wouldn't keep her seat belt on or over her shoulder.  She jumps on her bed, tears books, whines, plays with her light switch (and the pull string on the fan while standing on her bed), won't stay in bed at night, can't play by herself, ignores instruction, destroys anything she has if we don't watch her like a hawk, and puts everything, and I mean everything in her mouth - money, books, picture albums, small toys, big toys, and I even caught her in her bed with her foot in her mouth (ewwwwww!).

I need to be a better "natural consequences" parent, but I don't know how.  I think this week we're going to focus all my time and energy reminding the kids how to respect each other's toys.

What do you do when your kids continually touch feet under the table, then whine about it when the other person does it?  I'm thinking of making them stand if they can't keep their feet off the other chairs.

What do you do when the girl puts stuff in her mouth?  I usually take it away from her, but I can't take her feet off!  So on come the socks.  That she takes off and puts under her pillow as soon as I walk away.

What do you do in the car when the two of them are playing in a very loud and rowdy way, pulling on each other's hair and arms?  I mean, it's great that they get along so well, but they're too wild for the car!

But there have been improvements.  Most nights, the girl is so exhausted she passes out as soon as her head hits the pillow, so she doesn't have an opportunity to get out of bed.  And she and Eli are really getting along and love each other (she got sad today when we dropped him off at school).  And there are signs that she's maturing (like getting dressed in the morning without having to be told, only pumping the soap once, using an appropriate amount of toilet paper).  But there's such a long road ahead of us...

She's been home the last 3 days because of a morning fever (which is gone by 10am).  If she hadn't been lethargic and not eating I would have sent her to school anyway.  This morning was the first time she ate a good breakfast and seems "normal" so hopefully tomorrow will be the day she gets to go back to school.

We've established some routines that have helped our days.  Every night we choose what the kids are going to wear.  They wake up, potty, brush their teeth (I have to brush Amelia's still), and eat breakfast.  Then they change and make their beds so they can play.  Would you believe that they're ready in less than an hour?!

We're taking Amelia out of tutoring.  It was just too much for us.  Poor thing was getting burned out!  So we're going to start a routine of coming home from school, playing/having a snack for 30mins, then sitting down to do 30mins of "homework".  Some of this will be from school, but most of it will be from workbooks I'll get at the learning center.

All in all, things are settling down quite nicely...another 5-6 months and we'll be sitting pretty (HA!  just kidding!  But at least she'll be better able to communicate.)


Kelly said...

Hey, Nat. Have you read any books on adoption, such as Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child?

The reason I ask is because this book in particular, which is one of my favorites, gives great insight into why adopted children act the way they do.

I would be paraphrasing, but most adopted children are going to be revved up, or withdrawn. These are natural reactions to be scared and overwhelmed.

We like to think as parents that our children are in better places than they were, which they are, but they are still traumatized leaving what they knew regardless. And though we offer stable environments and love, our children are really, really scared that they rug is going to be pulled out from under them again.

So with that said, it would seem that some of the behaviors are coming from a place of fear, which is manifest in being revved up. It's how Amelia is showing her fear and grief.

What to do? Calm her down. How? Observation. Watch what she does and what think relax and sooth her, then do them. During these calm moments, such as you and Amelia swinging on the swing in the park, these are opportunities to share expectations while Amelia is calm and she can understand.

Some of it, of course, is just personality. Alina is the same way. We work hard to limit things that will excite her and over stimulate her and now read her pretty well.

Another good book for a conceptual model is Beyond Consequences Logic and Control.

Hopefully this does not come off as preachy and it makes sense. This is the route we have taken and we have had great success with Alina.

We can talk on telephone some day. Blessings. Kelly

steph said...

Oh my, this could've been written by me. Our 7 year old that has been home for a month now is just like this. Even though we love him dearly and are so glad to have him here, it is exhausting. I knew that he was delayed in a lot of areas and that he was very much a toddler although 7, but knowing that doesn't mean I'm not beat by the end of the day. He seems younger than my four year old in many, many ways. I've been spending my days at school with him for these very reasons. Lunchtime is a disaster. Food everywhere, face, floor, hair, clothes, hands, table... He doesn't put everything in his mouth anymore, but he touches EVERYTHING. Even people. And the five point harness?! Just told my husband yesterday that we were going to put him in one and take him out of the booster seat for the exact same reasons. We lovingly refer to him as Stitch (like from Lilo and Stitch). Here he is, from another planet. An alien trying to learn to be a dog:) I don't have any advice to offer, but I'd like to say that you are doing a great job:) I guess in a sense we are being given the chance to experience their earlier years... Anyhow, just wanted to let you know that you're not alone!!

Stefanie and Bill said...

I am far from an expert, but can speak from experience. We just brought home our 7th child from Ukraine. She is 7 years old, but as you mentioned, a combination of a 2,3,4,5,6 year old all in one. I will say that you cannot parent a child such as this like a "typical" child that has been with you their entire life. The behaviors you mention are a combination of attention seeking, poor modeling from others in her Groupa, brattyness and control tactics on her part. These behaviors must be dealt with the moment you arrive home and your approach must be firm and consistent. In a sense, you must break these behaviors. Telling her to take her foot out of her mouth will not work. Though it is sad, that these children have dealt with so much trauma in their lives and taught so little, the worst thing a parent can do is feel sorry for them and try and make up for lost time, by coddling them and withholding discipline. Most children need to be retaught sleeping, eating and basic self care habits. She should have enough language skills by now that you can get your points across in one, two or three word phrases. We are in the "thick" of it right now with our daughter, so we know how exhausting it is. Our daughter constantly had her fingers in her nose. I said, "Ni nosik" (no nose) a million times, and showed her how to properly use a kleenex. She is finally getting it. She came with other annoying/ugly behaviors as well. We are chipping away at it and she is getting it. These behaviors have been happening for many years in your daughter, just because you say no, does not mean she will stop. As a matter of fact, I can guarentee she won't stop. Keep trying you will figure out what works for her.

The McGowans said...

Have you tried "do overs" with her? I did this all the time with Maxim when he first came home to us and he had no idea how to behave.

Here's one example of how it looked: He would whack me and then laugh. It would be pretty easy to show him my hurt face (because he really did hurt me), and then tell/show him that when he sees the hurt face, he needs to hold my hand and look sad that he had hurt me. Then we tried again--He pretends to hurt me, I show him the "ouch" face and he responds by holding my hand and showing me his sad face. After a few seconds, I smile and we move on.

The other thing we did all the time was talk about his rule when he was calm--use everything for its purpose. How do you use the x? What is the purpose of y? (x 100, hopefully slightly different ways of saying the same thing) and then super praise when you see her using something appropriately. We are almost three years into this and still do this dance, so maybe it doesn't work, but I think it has helped. Ha ha. At least it helps me to have a plan.

About the chewing/oral issues. Have you thought about getting her some baby teething toys? And when she is needing some oral stimulation she can get it with an appropriate chew toy and not her feet or doll.

About the car--I have Max sit as close to me as he can in the car so I can hold his hand or leg when he starts to do that crazy car behavior that drives his siblings nuts. The short hold seems to be just enough of a reminder that the long arm of Mom can reach him and to pull him back over the line. Do you think if Amelia was less crazy in the car that Eli would be able to stay calm?

I am sure you will figure it out--the best solution is to keep your eyes open and get to know Amelia more and more. The more you know her, the more insight you will have into what makes her do what she does. And when you know that, you'll have a better idea how to respond appropriately to her antics. And of course, Amelia has brought out new things you get to learn about Eli--so it is a double blessing/double growth.