Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One Year Post Adoption Goals

Before we adopted, I read all kinds of information about various difficulties adopted children might have.  Some talked about issues such as post-traumatic stress syndrome and others spoke about emotional attachment disorders.  While we don’t see any sign of any major issues going on with Brandon, I remember reading an article regarding post adoption and family adjustments that might help those of you that are adopting or have adopted.

 In the article it said that the main goal in the 1st year after adoption is to encourage a secure, well-adapted family.  The following recommendations to assist in this goal are:

 *To minimize change
*To maintain and celebrate the adopted child’s connections with all the important people in his/her life
*To meet the child where they are at mentally, emotionally and physically
*To allow the child to grieve

As I read back over these 4 things, a few things jump out at me with regard to Brandon.  As easy going as he seems to be, we truly want to keep him that way.  The kid has been through enough in his young life and the last thing we want to do is stress him out. 

We need to minimize change.   Brandon has moved several thousand miles away from where he was born.  He spent at least the last 4 years of his life in Ukraine never leaving the 1 ½ acre orphanage campus at all. I can’t even imagine not going anywhere outside 1 ½ acres for a month, much less 4 years or more.  Additionally, after I had the experience of living in Ukraine for over 6 weeks, I know that almost nothing about America is the same as Ukraine.  America smells different.  It looks different.  There is a different language.  The diet is different.  Clothing is different.  Families are different.  Hygiene is different. Transportation is different.  Priorities are different.  Education is different.  The list could go on all day.  The point is he’s had enough change.  We need to remember to keep his world as simple as we can and not change what he now knows as “normal.”   

We need to maintain and celebrate the adopted child’s connections with all the important people in his life.  If you were to ask him who is most important in his life he would probably tell you the 5 of us and the rest of his new extended family that he now has.   We would add to his list his living biological grandmother and biological uncle still living in Ukraine.  However, I'm not sure how long that will last since he can barely remember Russian already.   If I try to speak what little Russian I know to him, he scolds me.  “I’m American; I like English” he will say.  Nevertheless, we will do our best at this one.

We need to meet Brandon where he is mentally, emotionally and physically.  It is really difficult to measure where he is in any category other than physically.  He is definitely physically coordinated beyond his chronological 11 years old.  He is on track in clothing ranging from 10-12 boys and a 5 boy’s shoe.  He’s a rugged 73 pounds and has a very strong muscle tone.  At times he acts like a 7 or 8 year old child in that he likes Cars movies and Transformers toys.  He wanted Sketchers light up Transformer shoes for school (I had to tell him and his dimples “no” on that one and diverted the blame on the school uniform rules).  He has no shame in wearing a Burger King cardboard crown out of the restaurant.  He is fascinated by airplanes and helicopters.   I got sympathetic looks from other shoppers a few weeks ago when he freaked out over seeing himself on the video cameras at Sam’s.  On-lookers all think because of the way he reacts to certain things in public and his broken language that he is a “special needs” child and they all grin at me with understanding.  In reality he has a wisdom and maturity beyond adulthood.  He has no problem sharing and giving.  This is more than most adults can say.  It’s sad when a kid who has had nothing will give anything and everything he has without hesitating, but most adults have a “me first” and “everything should be mine” mentality in America.   

We need to allow Brandon to grieve.  Really, this is the most difficult for me to comprehend.  He is seriously never sad (with the exception of not getting the light up shoes).  I can’t imagine him ever grieving.  He is so full of life and joy.  It is really hard to ever be in a bad mood with him around.  It does worry me a bit because I’ve never met anyone that is never ever sad.  I wonder if one day grief will hit him.  I’m not sure how we will respond if or when that happens.   

As for now, just 4 months after meeting Brandon for the first time, we are simply enjoying getting to know our son.  We like that he has a childlike innocence.  We get to “re-parent” him in many ways.  We get to teach him to do right.  He eagerly complies with family rules.  He desires to please us.  Though American society says he should be in 5th grade and rolling his eyes at his parents, we choose to allow him to be 7 or 8 and in 3rd grade.  We choose to not rush him to grow up and to catch up. Rather, we take the time to allow him to be fascinated over the little things in life.  He is growing and thriving in his new surroundings.  We can’t wait to see the man that God molds him to be.

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