These tips are designed for adoptive children and their parents to use when the child first moves in. The first few weeks are critical for everyone involved and so these tips, from my own experience, and that of other adopters, are invaluable for this crucial time.
Some tips may have to be applied differently depending on age-appropriateness.
Use “1, 2, 3, Go”
This is a simple Theraplay technique designed for younger children. It is where the parent uses a countdown (or count up) to something. For example, I use it when taking the boy out of the bath, or when we play some games. It teaches them to learn to wait, and can enable them to be calm before achieving something.
Drip feed the child information about their birth parents
Adoptive children will naturally be curious about their birth parents. Whilst I have not reached this stage yet, I have it on good authority that it is wise to give them titbits of information about their birth parents, as and when they ask for it. You should never sit them down and flood them with information. Often, a little information is all they need to satisfy their curiosity, but also, it can be very emotional and potentially confusing to have the entire story told in one sitting.
Don’t criticise yourself too much
This can be true for any parent, but particularly for adoptive parents. Certainly seek advice, talk to and confide in people you trust, but don’t beat yourself up about every little mistake you make. As I write this, I know I am guilty of it, but everyone makes mistakes.
Skype other members of your family, and friends
Technology can be detrimental to adoptive children’s privacy, however it can be a great source for improving their lives. We used Skype to talk to my parents and brother before our son met them. He was able to see their faces, and hear them talk, and it was superb for enabling him to feel more comfortable when he did meet them.
Skype is free; you can set up an account here
Don’t underestimate the value of subtle physical connections
Adoptive children can come with a range of issues, of which, many may relate to physical contact. The breadth and diversity of these issues, and the reasons behind them, are too many to discuss in this post, however I will try and illustrate my point with this example.
An adoptive child may not be comfortable being cuddled. As an adoptive parent, this could mean you experience a sense of missing out. Instead of forcing a cuddle, you can encourage simple physical contact during play; through the use of high fives. It may not seem like much, but it can be extraordinarily useful in the child’s development and help them garner trust with you as their parent.
Use massage creams on your child after your bath
This is an extension of my previous point. It is subject to age, and personal circumstance, however if the opportunity presents itself, use a mild baby massage cream on your child’s skin after bath time. This is not to pamper the child, but again to develop that physical contact between parent and child. We have used this technique, and it has been amazing.
Prioritise attachment over discipline
This might well sound like a sweeping statement and has to be applied according to the individual circumstances. It is imperative though that attachment is given priority to help the development of the adoptive child.
If an adoptive child steals money from you; it is not necessarily because they want the money, it may be a sense of loss that they are unable to verbalise, manifesting itself in their behaviour.
There are many books on this kind of subject that explain this idea a lot better than I can. Check out my recommended books on attachment.
I will be doing another 7 tips in a follow up post, so keep an eye out, and don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already!