One of the things that my husband and I did early on in our parenting experience (16 years ago) was attend a seminar put on by parents of post institutionalized children and the professional community that serves them. We actually did it on a whim, or maybe I should say a gut feeling.
At the time, we were just becoming adjusted to life on one income instead of two. We had just adopted our then 6 year old daughter from an orphanage in Russia, and I had just left my teaching job to stay home with her. Flying off for a weekend stay in a hotel and paying fees to attend a seminar were not easy choices, and yet I was hungry to educate myself about how my child’s beginning in life might be affecting her.
It turned out to be one of the best things we ever did. It was indeed one of the first things that gave us some of the education and tools necessary to formulate our parenting plan. 16 years ago the information about post institutionalized children and their needs was not as accessible as it is today, so I was ready and eager when the speakers addressed issues specific to my child’s life experiences. They talked about the effects of orphanage life in the first year of life. They discussed sensory integration, attachment, auditory processing, and more. Although I was a teacher who knew more than the basics of typical childhood growth and development, this seminar helped me begin to understand what I believed about child development from optimal and less than optimal terms, and for the first time to begin to truly see my child’s needs.
This brings us to Step 2 in the formulation of a parenting plan: ANALYZING YOUR INDIVIDUAL CHILD’S NEEDS.
Now let me just say here that these steps do not neatly end and lead directly into the next. Far from it. For example, my own education (Step 1) is still ongoing even 16 years later, and every time I learn more, I know more about my kiddos needs.
When I came home from that first seminar, however, I had the first glimpses of the reality of my child’s needs. My first analysis process started on the plane ride home with my husband and went something like this.
“From what I’ve heard it looks like she might need some sensory integration help. I think having me at home is a real need for her right now. I’m glad I made that choice. I’m also glad they talked about attachment. I didn’t think she had a need for me to address that. I mean she is so clearly bonding to us. But I guess I didn’t understand how this attachment thing works on a continuum and I also didn’t get that some of these other behaviors she has are signs that she is still working on attachment. She needs me to learn more about that so that we can address it.”
Since that day my husband and I have had hundreds of informal “analysis” sessions about all three of our children’s needs. Each session brings us back to Step 3: Goal Setting.
We’ll examine goal setting in the next blog post, but for now think about what you have learned so far about the child who waited. Also consider what you know about your individual child. How are they functioning? What needs are they expressing? Remember to consider not only the obvious needs (she’s clingy—she needs assurance I will always be here) but also the less obvious needs (she’s very controlling—this may be a sign of insecure attachment—she needs me to clearly demonstrate that I can competently take care of her). If the less obvious needs still seem tricky for you to discern take time to learn more about the child who waited.
Tags: Adoptive Parenting, attachment, bond, bonding, caregiving, discipline, general parenting, international adoption, new adoptive parents, older child adoption, parent planning, parenting the issue, positive parenting, special needs