Kindergarten, to send or to wait?

July 17, 2013 by

Around here, families are getting ready to enroll their children in school.  As my oldest enters his senior year in high school (Yikes!  Where did the time go?), I’m reminded about the year he was five and it was time to decide whether or not to send him to Kindergarten.

Academically, he was more than ready but I felt that the social/emotional part would be a challenge.  I agonized over this decision and worried about everything!

Worries:                                         

If I waited: that he would be bored with academics…  but if I sent him: that he would be overwhelmed with a classroom setting and expectations.

If I waited: that he would eventually be one of the biggest or more physically mature in his class… but if I sent him: that he would be the smallest in his class

If I waited: that he would think there was something “wrong” with him…  but if I sent him: that he would have a difficult experience that would set a negative tone for his school career

If I waited: that he would eventually be embarrassed to be a year older than his classmates…  but if I sent him: that he would want–no, need!–to be at home another year.

If I waited: that I would be stifling him and denying exactly what he needed to mature …  but if I sent him: that I was pushing something on him that he was developmentally just not ready for.

And so on….!

I talked to many teachers and parents who had had to make the same decision for their children.  In the end, all of the teachers recommended waiting a year if unsure and all of the parents who waited said they were glad they did, while a few of the parents who went ahead and sent their children said they wished they had waited.

What the Science of Child Development Says
I also looked at what I knew and believed about child development.  I knew and believed that social and emotional development is key to other types of development, including academic development.  I knew and believed that the foundational skills used to be successful in social and emotional development were best developed one-on-one with someone who really understood and was conscious about developing those brain based skills.

In the end, I decided to wait a year before sending him to kindergarten.  As I am getting ready to enroll him in his Senior year of High School, I am so glad that I did wait!  He made tremendous leaps and bounds in his development that year he was (mostly) at home with me that set him up for a positive school experience.

Fortunately,  NONE of the things I worried about from the “Worries if I Waited to Send Him” list ever happened!  He is at the top of his class, enjoys his friends, is great to be around at home and is planning for college.  He has worked hard to be where he is and yet, I truly believe that what happened in those early years and particularly that extra year at home gave him the abilities he needed to be successful.

So, if you are weighing this decision, really take the time to discern what areas in your child’s development need growth and then really consider (using the science about child development!) how to best help your child gain those skills.   Some kids may be more ready than you think, but others will need time (and brain building experiences!) to mature and grow into kindergarten readiness.

Check out our Facebook page to find a link that provides other guides to determining skills needed for kindergarten.

www.heartofthematterseminars.com

Russian Adoption Ban: More than just an adoption news story!

December 28, 2012 by

19 years ago today my husband and I were counting the last few days until we could fly to Russia to finally bring our daughter Tanya home.  Today we are shocked and saddened by the news that President Putin has signed the bill banning US adoptions of Russian children.  We are sickened to read  that the passing of this bill  has little to do with adoption itself and more to do with retaliation for our own government’s passing of the  Magnitsky Act.  Ironically, this act was passed  to send a human rights message to Russia and instead it has created a new and even more haunting human rights issue.

My heart aches for the US families in the process of adopting who may now never see their precious children come home.  More importantly, my heart breaks for every Russian child whose fate, because of this bill,  will be to grow up in an institution; a fate that the research clearly tells us has dire consequences.  The children are the real victims in this drama.  This is much much more than an adoption news story.  This is much more than the political maneuverings of two countries’ governments   This is a children’s human rights issue.

The simple fact is that the signing of this bill means that thousands of Russian orphans who would have had homes, will now languish in orphanages.  Unacceptable.  It is not unacceptable to me just as an American or just as an adoptive mother or even just  as someone who educates adoptive parents about the very real needs of children who have waited in orphanages.  It is unacceptable to me as a human being.  It is unconscionable to  know that institutional care creates undeniable issues for the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical well being of children and then to enact policy that actually means more children will suffer this fate.

As an adoptive parent, I have always taught my daughter that her father and I are the lucky ones.  I’ve never liked it when people told us how lucky she was to have us.  She was and is our dream come true.  It seemed insane to think of her as the lucky one.  But today, I am forced to imagine what would have happened to our Tanya, and the more than 55,000 other children that were adopted from Russia since then, if they had played out their years in a Russian orphanage.  It is chilling to  think of what would have been lost  to our Tanya, to us, and to the world, if  she (and the others) had not come home to us.

tanya life 2

Feel free to respond to this blog with your own pictures and stories.  And as this tragedy plays out in the days and weeks to come please help to educate the people around you that this is much more than an adoption news story.  Reach out to your senators and representatives and tell them that you expect our government to continue to fight for these children’s human rights.  And if you are blessed with children that are home safe and sound, hug them tightly and commit to teaching them about human rights and our responsibility as members of the human race to fight for them.

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281 Voices: Adult Adoptees Describe Contact with Birth Family Members

December 10, 2012 by

281 voicesAs we release the 2ND SNEAK PEEK  into the information gathered in our survey of 281 adult adoptees about open adoption, once again I am reminded that there is no cookie cutter formula for open adoption.  Open adoptions are as different as all the people involved in them.

While the top three words used by our survey group were the same whether their adoptions had always been open or were closed and later became open, we also found that the majority of these folks used a mix of positive, negative and neutral words to describe contact. For example:

One participant who was adopted at birth and whose adoption was closed but became open when they were a young adult chose, “enjoyable, easy, difficult, interesting, safe, exciting, informative, healthy, stressful, fun, loving, respectful and a pleasure”  to describe contact.

Another individual who had contact with birth family members while growing up described it as, “enjoyable, difficult, interesting, exciting, sporadic, uncomfortable, normal, unusual, strained, stressful and fun”.

This shouldn’t be surprising.  After all, how many people can you describe in only positives or negatives?  In fact,  it’s hard to imagine that one would even bother to have a relationship with a person if there were only neutral feelings about them!

The question is, what does this mean for adoptive parents who have the opportunity to facilitate an open adoption with their child’s birth family members?

It helps set realistic expectations.  As parents our natural inclination is (or should be!) to jump to protect our kids from negative things.  However, if adoptive parents know that there are likely to also be positives to be gained, then they can weigh those positives and negatives to make a more informed, measured decision as to what is best for their child.

It’s a reminder that birthparents/birth family members are real people.  I believe that the adoption community and our society tends to paint birth parents in extremes.  Angel or devil… hero or villain… saint or sinner…?  But, at the end of the day “birthparent” is only a person just like the rest of us and I suspect that if they were given a list like this one and asked to describe the adoptive parents they would have a mixed response, too!  Furthermore, if we are really talking in a real way, let’s remember that not all adoptees are perfect, either!  :-)

It reminds us that relationships ebb and flow.  I don’t think it’s an accident that both “normal” and “unusual” were selected by the same person.  The quality of relationships can change.  Beyond that, an adoptee may describe their contact with different family members in different ways.

Next, we will look at what benefits they see in open adoption.

 

www.heartofthematterseminars.com

 

Learning From Adult Adoptees: 281 Voices

November 28, 2012 by

Our blog has been quiet lately because Katie and I have been hard at work on our new course Opening Up Open Adoption:  What is it and is it right for you?   Creating the course has been an interesting adventure that began almost a year ago when we dove into researching the topic of open adoption and thinking about what families considering open adoption really needed in terms of pre-adoption education.  We started our learning/planning process by interviewing birth parents,  adoptive parents, and adoption professionals about their experiences with open adoptions.  Having learned a lot about open adoption from these families and professionals we were still keenly aware that an important voice was missing.  We needed to hear from adoptees themselves.

In April of 2012, we launched an online survey of adult adoptees 18 years or older asking them to weigh in with their thoughts, feelings, and experiences on adoption in general and specifically with open adoption.    281 adoptees responded to our survey bringing us so much data to consider and offering our course a whole new perspective.  Some of the things the 281 told us we expected, but other pieces of the data were surprising to us and might be surprising to you as well!

So in the coming  weeks, as we get ready to release our full survey report and launch our new course, we thought we would give you a sneak peak of just some of those 281 voices and what they had to say about open adoption.  We’ll be starting by sharing  how adult adoptees themselves defined “open adoption.”   Get your sneak peak of those definitions and some thoughts to ponder about defining open adoption here.  And stay tuned for more interesting results from the 281!

Heart of the Matter Home

Fortune Cookie and Our New Course

May 24, 2012 by

Creating our next course on open adoption is taking longer than we expected, but I received a good reminder to be patient!  We here at Heart of the Matter truly do believe in putting out quality courses that are worth taking!   –Katie

I not only had a nice lunch but received a good reminder yesterday!

The Day After Mother’s Day

May 14, 2012 by

Mother’s Day can be one of the hardest holidays to get through while waiting to adopt. I remember crying my way through many holidays during the years of infertility and then waiting for my son to come home.

If you are a woman waiting for motherhood, how did you get through the day?

For those of you who waited and are finally mothering, what advice can you give those who are still waiting? What helped you through the hard days?

LWB’s Realistic Expectations Series: Potty Training

May 1, 2012 by

Love Without Boundaries’ Amy Eldridge has been writing a series on her blog about “Realistic Expectations”. While it is geared toward families adopting from China, many of the issues are common in other countries as well. Today I read her post on toilet training and thought that there were many, many good points for any families adopting internationally! You can find it here: http://www.lwbcommunity.org/realistic-expectations-potty-training

I’d like to highlight a few of the issues she raises that are common to many other countries as well as China.

“Today we would like to continue with the “bathroom” subject, as one of the most common questions asked by parents is whether or not their child-to-be is potty trained.  Well…… define potty trained. And if the definition is “Western style toilet trained,” then the answer is probably not….  In orphanages that do use potty chairs or ceramic pots for toilet training, many staff will say that a child is “potty trained” when what they mean is that all the children are lined up on potties several times a day. They might sit there for an hour at a time starting at a very young age, and during that time they happen to “go.” Scheduled potty time in Chinese orphanages is common, but that doesn’t always equate to a toddler being able to tell a new parent when he or she needs to use the bathroom, and so don’t get frustrated when there are accidents.”  (underlines are mine)

This practice is certainly not limited to China.  For example, it’s the usual for children being adopted from East European countries, India and some African countries as well.

India

East Europe

Africa

Aside from the short-term issues (like helping a child acclimate to Western style toilets or managing parental expectations) there are sometimes long-term effects as well.   In some cases this type of “toilet training” causes the child to fear elimination and toileting.  Aside from the obvious signs of fear related to toileting, children will sometimes withhold urine or feces which can lead to physical complications, which in turn can start a cycle of fear, withholding and physical impact that can be hard to break.

Children who have spent time in less than optimal care (like and orphanage) often have a great need to control their environment.  And, what better area of life to control than pottying?  I mean, no one can truly make a child put their potty in the toilet short of abuse!

Add to these potential issues the fact that children who have spent time in less than optimal care also usually lag behind in one or more areas of development and there is huge potential for potty problems!

So, how do you know if you’re dealing with short term potty training issues or more long-term concerns?  That’s a big question and we’ve started to address it in our course Transitions, Developmental Challenges or Just Regular Kid Stuff???   Although this is a recorded course now, it was given in a webinar format a couple of years ago.  While many different behaviors were addressed, toilet training was one that was always raised in these live webinars!

Whether potty problems are stemming from fear, uncertainty, transitions, a need to control or a lag in development, special parenting is needed.  Traditional toilet training strategies have the potential to backfire in a big way.  Parenting that gets at the underlying issue rather than the symptom is called for and discussed at length in Because They Waited and in Discipline: Managing Your Child’s Bid for Power.

Where are the adult adoptees?

April 30, 2012 by

You may have already seen that we have a survey out on open adoption. We are most interested in hearing from young adults who grew up in contact with birth family members, but we are struggling to get the survey into their hands.

We wonder if it may be because happy, well-adjusted young adults might not be hanging out in adoption forums and support groups!

Regardless of why, if you know a young adult adoptee, please share this link with them! http://app.fluidsurveys.com/s/openadopt/

Open Adoption: Capturing the Voice of the Adoptee

April 18, 2012 by

Katie and I are deep in work on our newest project, an online course for prospective parents considering an open adoption.  As part of our work we have launched a research project to try and capture adult adoptees’ voices.  We’re specifically looking for adults 18+ who had some degree of contact with birth family members while growing up.  Please share this link with those you know who might want to participate.  The participants may remain anonymous.  Results will be published on our website and used in our course.  The survey takes only a few minutes to complete.

http://app.fluidsurveys.com/s/openadopt/

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Can Zip-a -Dee-Doo-Dah Change Eeyore? Using music to chip away at your child’s negative worldview.

April 2, 2012 by

Which is more powerful, a negative worldview or music?   Don’t count music out too fast.  Research has long shown that music can have a dramatic impact on body and mind.  While I can’t say that music  is capable alone of changing a negative worldview, I do know that for my family it makes a big difference for children and parents alike.

One of the effects of a neglectful, abusive, and/or traumatic beginning in life is that it often leaves a child with a darkened worldview.  We interpret and make sense of our world through our experiences, and when our experiences are largely negative it only makes sense that our view of the world in general would be negative as well.

Parenting  a child who looks at the world like the Winnie the Pooh character Eeyore can be  frustrating and depressing.  It can seem as if no matter what you do your child is still unhappy and gloomy.  That’s because worldviews are not changed with motivational speeches, lecturing, nagging, or  reminding a child how lucky he or she is.  Worldviews do not change instantly just because the child is placed in a better situation. Worldviews are changed slowly and methodically over long periods of  time.  Only after millions and millions of cycles of need are completed for the child  can  these new more positive experiences begin to also impact that  child’s worldview.  Even then, a child’s worldview doesn’t often change dramatically.  I think it is more common to see a subtle lightening of a child’s worldview and hopefully  a continued lightening over time.

Years ago music became a sanity saver in terms of helping me stay upbeat while battling my oldest child’s sometimes gloomy outlook.  I took to singing her rousing choruses of  “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” and “Zip- a -Dee- Do -Dah” as we were waking up each morning.  These off key silly moments were as much for my sanity and centering as they were for her.  But I really do believe now that they also helped  to chip away at that Eeyore-like outlook.  She is in her 20’s  now and when she was home visiting recently she gave me a morning hug and broke into our “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” song.  So if nothing else, it is a fond memory for her.

My two youngest kids are teens now and reminding  me indirectly  that just  being a teenager can weigh heavily on one’s worldview.  Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive and upbeat as a teen in our society.  So I’ve decided to break out some morning music again.  I made a morning play list and this weekend  happy wake up music became part  the Drew family breakfast again.  I do believe over time  it will chip away just a bit at those challenging teen worldviews and if nothing else, it will help me to start each day off on the right foot instead of getting sucked into their grumpy.

Thought you might enjoy a peek at my list.  I’d love to hear what music  inspires your family.

I think this first song started everyday of my oldest child’s first grade year:

My mom and dad used to sing this one to me when I was  small and this is the one my daughter most remembers us singing in the mornings:

Good Day Sunshine, Beatles

A Beautiful Morning, The Rascals

Three Little Birds, Bob Marley

Ok I admit it, my kids were kind of rolling their eyes at my breakfast music this weekend UNTIL this one came on and then they burst out laughing!

Because of James Brown I was given a reprieve on eye rolling for John Denver.  And I’m sorry but who can’t feel just a little happy listening to this….

More Beatles.  You can’t really go wrong there.

Classic….Cat Stevens

Classic ….James Taylor

Feeling Good, Nina Simone

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