Sensory Processing Disorder: Why Does My Child Struggle With Sensory Issues?

 

I was greeted at the door by a mom and her two year old newly adopted son dressed in a very cute sailor outfit. However, by the time we walked about ten feet into the kitchen and sat down, the child was naked and flooding the bathroom! Although at first glance, one might assume this child had ADHD, when in fact he had a Sensory Processing Disorder. What this mom learned very quickly, is that therapy and the use of some accessible activities can really help calm the senses of children dealing with sensory integration disorder.

Sensory processing disorder (or SPD) is also known as Sensory Integration Disorder—a condition where the individual struggles to process or have appropriate responses to the demands of their environment. Basically a ‘sensory overload’ where the brain becomes overwhelmed with smells, sounds, sights, textures, temperature and other sensory input—affecting a child’s social skills and behavior.

If you have concerns about your child having these issues, speak with your pediatrician. Your child might benefit from a referral to an occupational therapist. They are trained to evaluate and develop a plan of care or interventions that can be helpful for your child.

Occupational therapists refer to a ‘sensory diet’—activities that are sensory based and help the child to calm down. It might be helpful to keep a diary of your child’s behavior as that will help the professionals identify issues of stress and possible interventions. Be aware of activities or situations that cause your child to go into sensory overload. Avoid them or have ‘escape’ plans with your child, so that your child feels more in control of the situation.

Here is a list of some of the activities or interventions used as part of the treatment for SPD.

  1. Miniature trampoline – jumping can actually help the brain settle down.
  2. Sandbox with Measuring cups and items hidden in the sand to find.
  3. Packing plastic that can be rubbed on the child, or popped.
  4. Weighted blanket – cover the anxious child in a weighted blanket
  5. Weighted vest – sew weights into the pockets
  6. Bubble gum – chewing will help to calm the senses.

Addition Resources:

Websites:

Books:

Summer Camp Resources for Adoptive Families

 

 

 

Summer is upon us and the season for summer camp has come. Maybe this is your first summer with your kids and you have no idea where to start for camp and summer activities.

 

The first place to start would be your church. Often times churches have summer camp for older elementary school kids through high school age. Or they may be connected with a summer camp that they frequently take their youth to each summer. The other thing that is offered is Vacation Bible School, which is not an all day camp (a half a day typically) and a great opportunity for your children to learn and have fun. Older kids (junior high and high school) are often encouraged to volunteer.

 

Next check out your local YMCA, they have all sorts of summer activities including overnight and day camps that they can connect you to. These can also turn into great resources during the school year for sports and activities and even after school care in some areas.

 

Lastly you would want to check out the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts which also have summer camps. Kids can go to camps from all over the place and your child can make new friends that have different backgrounds to share.

 

Overall summer camp is a great experience for your child, finding the experience that works best for your family is key. Look at what your family is looking for and what your child is ready for. Maybe they are not ready to go away to camp but a day camp is a great option or maybe they are just begging to go away to camp.  Once you know what they need you can make your choice. From there you can enjoy your summer.

 

 

Week Long Christian Camps for Juniors, Teens, and Families:

 

 

 

Day Camps:

 

 

 

2018 Family Camps for Adoptees & Families:

 

  • Holt International provides camp for adoptees & their families at various locations in the US—New Jersey, Nebraska, Wisconsin & Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navigating the Summer for Children Needing Structure

 

Summer is a time of freedom, relaxation, and rejuvenation. For some of our children, the shift from a well-structured school day to the unstructured nature of a relaxed lazy summer day at home can bring on anxiety and stress. As you prepare for summer, here are some tips and ideas to add some structure to your long relaxing days.

 

Create A Family Calendar

Creating a family calendar will not only keep you organized, but will allow your family to know what to expect each day. Think of first adding in the daily monotonous tasks like chores and naps, and then add the fun activities. Display the calendar in a place where everyone can see it. Giving your child the freedom to choose activities in their week will allow them to feel as though they have some control over the days to come. This will help to lessen their anxiety and give them a sense of understanding what the expectations of the day are. Having a family calendar with input from everyone will also allow you to minimize the battles you may face when it comes to choosing an activity.

 

Taking the calendar idea a little further, you can create a chart for daily tasks that you would like your child to complete. For instance, use pictures of items to signify each task that the child usually completes. Use a picture of a toothbrush to symbolize brushing their teeth, a shirt to symbolize getting dressed, and a bed to symbolize making their bed. Even if the child typically completes these tasks each day during the school year, they may benefit from having a visual of structured activities when they first wake up in the morning and what they are expected to accomplish.

 

 

Create A Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan will allow your child to visualize what they will be eating for their meals each day. Get the children involved! Let your child help you look through cookbooks, make a shopping list, and help you prepare the meals. If this seems overwhelming to give your child that much freedom, you can come up with a pre-made meal plan and allow your child to choose the days for each meal. You can post the meal plan in the kitchen where it will be easily seen by all members of the family. We all know that when there is a less structured environment, meal schedules and healthy eating are the first things to go. Having a structured meal plan with snack options listed will give your child options of pre-approved snacks. This way you are not having to spend so much time in the kitchen trying to come up with quick snacks to feed a disregulated child.

 

 

Join a Summer Camp

If you do not have the opportunity to stay home with your children during the summer, joining a summer camp is a great way to add structure to your child’s summer schedule. Most summer camps offer a relatively routine and structured schedule. There are loads of community opportunities and church activities that offer low cost summer camps. Joining a summer camp will allow your child to have some structure to their day without the pressure of receiving a grade. Most camps are based on completing a special project or playing games and are not based on merit or grades.  Keep an eye out for next week’s blog that will describe summer camp ideas in more detail!

 

Create An Activity Jar

Not a fan of the calendar idea and desire a little less structure? Create an activity jar for whenever your child may tell you that they are bored or if they begin to act out from a lack of routine or structure. In an age where it is so easy to hand a screen to your child in that moment, it is important to create opportunities for a child to build their own structure in play. To make an activity jar, take an empty jar and fill it with slips of paper with approved activities on each slip. For example, you can mix easy chores, short exercises, or fun activities on each slip of paper. Make sure you have all the items needed to complete each task. Allow your child to choose a few slips of paper and pick their favorite one. This will allow space for your children to learn to express creativity, problem solve, and use their imaginations to complete the tasks.

Our Adoption Journey: Nightlight Family Testimony

 

This is the story of how we adopted our precious daughter. My wife and I had 10 years of unexplained infertility. We felt in our hearts that we needed to partner with a Christian adoption agency. Galatians 6:10 instructs us, ” … let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” In my opinion, that means choosing to do business with brothers and sisters in Christ when we’re able, as this helps them provide for their families.  I contacted Focus on the Family, which led us to Love Basket, Inc., now Nightlight Christian Adoptions.  We had been waiting 3½ years when we finally got the call from the agency that would change our lives forever, joyfully informing us that they’d found a good adoption match and that we soon would be heading for Kansas City, Missouri. There were many friends and family members praying for us; this covering of prayer meant the world to us. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

Some folks might say we experienced a lot of “coincidences.”  We don’t believe these were coincidences at all. We believe in Emmanuel – “God with us.” God is not an absent landlord, nor does He love us from a distance, uninterested in our lives. We give thanks and glory to God, for we experienced His goodness and grace during our 12-day journey.

 

During the week after we got the phone call, one of my favorite worship songs, which I hadn’t heard in a while, came across my newsfeed: “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan and Melissa Helser:

 

“You split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears are drowned in perfect love.
You rescued me, and I will stand and sing. I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.”

 

As we were traveling to our daughter’s birth place we passed a cornfield along I-70, near Casey, Illinois where there were signs every 100 feet: World’s … Largest … Wind Chime … Next Exit. Casey is a charming little town, with finely manicured Scottish green lawns, and random “Guinness World Record” giant items (“world’s largest” wind chime, mailbox, rocking chair, etc.) on store front properties. There was a cafe that was closed but I pictured us eating here on the way back home with our baby. (I use the generic term “baby” because, since the birth mother wanted the gender to be a surprise, we still didn’t know at that point if we were getting a son or a daughter.)

 

We drove further, spending the night in Effingham, Illinois, where there is a giant white cross, 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide. It is forged out of over 180 tons of steel anchored in an enormous volume of cement, so it can withstand hurricane-force blasts of wind (up to 145 mph). At the visitor center, an older woman, Edie, prayed for us. Edie is the name of my wife’s beloved three-year-old niece. An altar stands in the chapel with an inscription that reads simply, “Trust in God.”

 

After about five hours of driving under sunny blue skies, we arrived at our attorney’s office just two minutes before our scheduled meeting. He had a calming presence, with a voice like Morgan Freeman narrating The Shawshank Redemption. The next day, we met our social worker from the adoption agency, RoNishia, who exemplified Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” She was classy in both appearance and personality, with a warm smile and a voice that was gentle and soothing, yet confident. There in the hospital waiting room, the three of us joined in prayer. RoNishia sat with us for hours, answered our questions, and encouraged us during the anticipation of the birth. Finally, the word came … IT’S A GIRL! Our beautiful daughter was brought to us in a bassinet. Our tiny, dark-haired baby girl, wrapped up in a white cocoon, was handed to her mommy, and through tears of joy, my wife fed her for the first time. It was one of those moments where the demands of life are placed on hold and you are completely loving and living in the present moment. The next two days spent caring for our little one were timeless; we didn’t know what time or even what day it was, and we didn’t care. We could relate to the nurses, listening to their own stories about adoption and their children, thankful to finally be parents ourselves. When the time came to leave the hospital, I was wishing I had brought an armored Humvee. (I’m betting other first-time daddies can relate!)

 

I was anxious while waiting to begin the legal proceedings to adopt our baby. There was another couple there adopting a baby boy; they were naming him Carson. Carson is not a very common name, but it happens to be the name of my brother’s son. Incredible! I was just shaking my head at all the little “coincidences.” It was as if the Lord was saying, “Why are you still nervous? I’ve got this covered!” All legal proceedings went smoothly, but it was nevertheless humbling and nerve-wracking being asked questions by our 4-day-old daughter’s state-assigned attorney.

We visited the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Kansas City. Some 10,000 people witnessed the laying of the cornerstone in 1882. We were dismayed to discover that it was closed, but the cleaning lady heard me tugging at the locked door so she let us in for an unofficial tour. The beauty of the stained glass took our breath away and we had the whole sanctuary to ourselves.

Missouri law requires adoptive parents to remain in Missouri while waiting for adoption paperwork to be approved, but they may go anywhere in the state. We decided to get a head start on our trip home by driving three hours east, to St. Louis. While there, we visited the Cathedral Basilica, completed in 1914; we thought we’d been transported to Italy. Installation of mosaics in the interior began in 1912 and was completed in 1988. The mosaics collectively contain 41.5 million glass tesserae (tile pieces) in more than 8,000 shades of color. Covering 83,000 square feet (almost two acres), it is the largest mosaic collection in the western hemisphere. Next stop was St. Francis Xavier. On June 8, 1884, the cornerstone for the new church was laid. When we first arrived, we had the whole sanctuary to ourselves – again. At the altar, we prayed for the adoption paperwork to be completed, protection on our drive home and, of course, for our precious baby girl.

 

Finally, all paperwork was approved and we were released to take our daughter home. It was a five-hour drive to our hotel in Richmond, Indiana, but we stopped first at the Effingham cross. To our great joy, even though she was not scheduled to work that day, Edie was there. When my wife offered to let Edie feed our baby, her smile lit up the room! No other tourists showed up the entire 45 minutes we were there. Edie had sent a card to our home address after our initial visit, telling us that she and her prayer partner were praying for our adoption. Now she knew that those prayers had been answered.

Last stop before our hotel was Casey, Illinois; I was determined to eat at the café that had been closed on our way west. This time it was open, and we ate together as a family. My wife’s favorite comic book character is Wonder Woman. How often do you see a poster depicting Wonder Woman for the women’s restroom? Unbelievable, but there it was! The real reason I had wanted to revisit Casey was because I had read about a Christian businessman who built Guinness World Record attractions to revitalize the town. He and other Christians bought most of the store fronts so the creations could be placed on private, not public, property. He placed a scripture on each one, knowing tourists would see them and be exposed to God’s Word. Eleven days earlier, I hadn’t noticed the star of David and the Christian fish symbol on the side of the giant wind chime. You can see these creations at www.bigthingssmalltown.com

 

It rained almost the entire last leg of the drive; a five-hour drive turned into seven hours. We passed two overturned tractor trailers that were heading west. Only four months prior, we had bought a used Lincoln MKZ hybrid; we were thankful for the comfortable and safe ride home with an impressive 44mpg.  As I was telling a neighbor about our trip, she said, “All you needed was a rainbow.” I grinned from ear to ear as I showed her this picture I took on our way home.

On Sunday, June 25th, 2017, we took our darling girl to Church for the first time. During communion, there was a worship song that I never heard before called “There is a Cloud” by Elevation Worship.

“Hear the word roaring as thunder with a new future to tell, for the dry season is over.
There is a cloud beginning to swell. Every seed, buried in sorrow, You will call forth in its time.
You are Lord, Lord of the harvest, calling our hope now to arise. We receive Your rain.”

 

The pastor titled his sermon “Joy,” and he showed a video of a song I’d never heard before, but which begs for a smile, “Old Church Choir” by Zach Williams.

 

When the valleys that I wander turn to mountains that I can climb
Oh, you are with me, never leave me
Oh, ’cause there ain’t nothing, there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy
(except a dirty diaper :))
I got an Old Church Choir singing in my soul.

 

I saved the best for last. Listed here are the birth mother’s requirements for the adoptive parents, in her own handwriting:

 

 

 

We paid our house off last year, have precisely two pets, and have a close family. My wife and I are very active (we got to see a lot of places during the waiting stage of the adoption process). We didn’t have a gender preference listed, but deep inside my wife really wanted a baby girl. The one sentence that I read over and over was, “I want this child to be a longed-for gift or answered prayer.” Coincidence? Not a chance.

 

There is a difference between giving up and giving in to feelings of defeat and accepting the reality of one’s circumstances and moving on. I am so very proud of my wife. There were many tears and frustrations in our struggle with infertility, but instead of allowing herself to become jealous or resentful of people close to us who were able to have children, she poured out love and generosity on them instead. The apostle Paul wrote this in his letter to the Philippians: “… I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

 

We prayed, and in His perfect time, the Lord answered. Praise His holy name.

 

Honoring Memorial Day With Your Family

 

I’m an “Army Brat.” If that term is unfamiliar to you, it’s a common description of a child who has a parent in the U.S. Army. “Army Brats” are often born in another country, or a small town in the middle of nowhere, U.S.A.  We move around a lot, make fast friends, say goodbye to those friends and make new ones in the next town. We understand each other and feel a sense of pride in our unusual lifestyle. We also learn a great deal about honor, respect, loyalty and commitment. Most importantly, we learn to remember those who lost their lives serving our country.

Having lived for a time near our nation’s capital, my family visited national monuments, attended military band concerts, watched Memorial Day TV specials and proudly hung our flag on the front porch. I still spend that day grateful that my father, an Army officer, survived two wars. However, many are not so lucky. My mother lost an uncle during wartime. Therefore, we always kept in mind the sacrifice that so many men and women have made for our country. I fear that although, logically, most people know the meaning of Memorial Day, some look at it as a long weekend and the start of summer.

Therefore, just as I am a member of the “Army Brat” club, I am also a member of “God’s Army.” In fact, we all are members of “God’s Army.” We were adopted, by Him, to fight the good fight of our Lord Jesus. His sacrifice has made it possible for us to have eternal freedom, much like the sacrifice of those who died for our country. So, here are some ways your “Army” can honor Memorial Day this year!

  1. Pray for those who have given their lives for our freedom. Pray also for their families.
  2. Create a special PowerPoint or other media presentation to share with family, on social media or in your church.
  3. Light a special candle in your home to honor the fallen. Re-light that candle each year.
  4. Hang a flag both inside and outside your home. Have your family create a short ceremony for hanging the flags.
  5. Lay a wreath. Find a place in your community to pay tribute to fallen veterans, whether it is at a cemetery, a veteran’s memorial, or a city building.
  6. Remember active duty troops. Make a habit of praying for them daily.
  7. Do a project for active duty troops. Make military care packages. Purchase small items to mail to troops serving overseas.
  8. Take part in a community service day. Dedicate your community service to those who have died for our freedom and for those who are bravely serving our country.
  9. Learn about issues affecting veterans. Help create awareness about the physical and mental health concerns veterans have after serving during wartime.

Your family can begin a new tradition by observing Memorial Day in a special way. Not only will you enjoy valuable family time, you can help remind others that just as God sacrificed His son, many have sacrificed their lives, so we can be free.  Freedom comes at a price. May we never take that for granted.

Funding Your Adoption: It is Possible!

One of the first and most frequent questions I am asked when I speak with people about adoption is “How much does adoption cost?” While there are complexities in answering this question, I realize that many people ask this question in an attempt to determine if they can afford the adoption program fees. They have the assumption that they could not afford this option of building their family.

Let me first address the fact that any method of creating a family is a process. There is no method of building a family which is free or quick. Whether you build your family through pregnancy, assistive reproductive technology, or various types of adoption, it will require a commitment of time and finances.

I’d like to share some ideas I’ve gained from others of how they have funded their adoption expenses:

  1. Many people do not realize that some employers offer adoption assistance. The Dave Thomas Foundation releases an annual list of employers who offer adoption assistance. Don’t assume that your employer doesn’t offer this if they didn’t make it on the list.
  2. Check with your church. Many churches have funds available. Even if your church cannot provide you with financial assistance, they may be able to help you in other tangible ways. For instance, you might be able to use the church to hold a fundraising activity. Or, individuals within the church may desire to help you financially.
  3. org offers adoption grants for those working with a non-profit adoption agency. You must have already completed your home study before you apply. There are several opportunities throughout the year to apply. They will ask for specific documentation, but you will already have this documentation gathered for your home study.
  4. Federal and state tax credits may be available to you. Check with your CPA to know exactly how to best utilize these tax credits.
  5. Crowd funding might be an idea for you. One of the most popular sites is “Go Fund Me.” Be sure to read the fine print to determine how much (if any) these crowd funding websites charge for their services. Nightlight offers The Adoption Bridge for families who are adopting through Nightlight’s programs.
  6. Consider the hobbies and interests you already have and create a fundraiser from them. If you enjoy running, and are a part of a running club, then plan a 5K run or walk to support your adoption. If you enjoy cooking or baking, then get busy in the kitchen and sell your tasty creations!
  7. Take a small part time job and devote the earnings from this employment to your adoption fees. You might consider becoming an Uber or Lyft driver, or delivering newspapers, or babysitting children on the weekends.
  8. Some families take out a loan to cover their adoption fees. America’s Christian Credit Union offers loans specially for adoption.
  9. Create a keepsake for your child, while at the same time raising financial support for your adoption. One idea is to purchase a 500-piece puzzle, then sell the puzzle pieces to supporters. They could write their name or a special message on the back of the puzzle piece. Once the pieces are sold put the puzzle together. Voila! You have a nice keepsake that you can frame and hang in your child’s room.
  10. Design a t-shirt to sell. Not only will it generate funds for your adoption, but it is a conversation piece. It is sure to spark a conversation and potentially generate more support for your adoption. And, this is a great keepsake for you, your child, and the rest of your extended family and friends who are on this journey with you.
  11. Do you know someone who has a direct sales marketing company such as Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, 31, Scentsy, or other enterprise? Talk to that person about holding a “party” or sale, where the proceeds from that event would be given to your adoption fund.

I am certain that there are other fun, creative and unique ideas out there. I welcome your input. Please comment on this post, so that we can generate even more ideas for others.

Nightlight’s Hosting Program: An Adoption Story

Did you know that Nightlight was the very first adoption agency to do hosting?  In the early 90’s Nightlight brought over a tour group of older children from Russia. Today’s Feel Good Friday story is brought to you by hosting.

Over Christmas 2009, I was working in the South Carolina office and we were assisting a hosting agency to bring over a group of children from Ukraine.  While the children were in the air between Ukraine and the US, one of the family’s backed out of hosting.  I sent out an urgent e-mail to families who had inquired with us.  One family sent the e-mail to the youth pastor at their church.  Bucky and Julie Rogers were youth pastors at the time, and they had previously adopted two children (one child through domestic adoption and one child from Guatemala).  They had only adopted babies and had no intention of adopting an older child.  However, because they were youth pastors, they figured they could do a good job hosting.

Sasha was 13 years old at that time.  He arrived and won all of our hearts.

I remember even the van driver (bringing the children from the airport) told me that he was her favorite of the group.  Within 2 days, Bucky and Julie called and wanted to know exactly what they needed to do to adopt Sasha.

Fast forward to travel, Mount Eyjafjallajökull erupted bringing air travel over Europe to a halt.  This happened the very day that Bucky and Julie were scheduled to fly to Ukraine.  They rebooked their flight to Germany and the gate agent told them that he could not guarantee that once they got to Germany they would be able to get to Ukraine. Julie told the gate agent, “If you get me to Germany, I’ll find a way to get to my son!

Sasha has grown into such a loving, respectful, young man who loves Jesus and his family.  Bucky and Julie are now full time missionaries in Uganda, and Sasha has spent a lot of time there as well.  Sasha is now 21 years old and getting married this fall.  A few weeks ago, Sasha sent me a message on Facebook asking for my home address.  I said, “Is it time for wedding invitations?” and he responded that it was.  I am so thrilled to be invited to witness this young man’s wedding.  He has been a blessing to all of us since his arrival here, and I am so humbled that God used me in a small way to change his story.  I am also especially overwhelmed by the fact that this is the first child that I have helped in the adoption process who is now old enough to get married.  I guess that means there are more to come.  I’m getting up there.  Hosting programs are a lot of work and sometimes stressful, but there are so many more children just like Sasha who would not have found a family otherwise.  This is why we do hosting and why we do what we do each day!

—Lisa Prather, LMSW | Vice President of Operations

For more information about our Hosting Programs, please contact Natalie by emailing her at natalie@nightlight.org.

Foster Parent Appreciation Month: Testimony from Katie & Brad

 

Brad and I found out a couple years ago it would most likely not happen that we would have children. Was it sad? Yes. Was it the end? NO! God chose this path for our lives and we could not imagine it any other way now! We always talked about adoption even before we were married, so this was not a hard decision to make. When we met with our agency we were determined to do domestic adoption. Foster Care was not at the front of the list. However, while speaking to our agency, God was changing our minds in that very moment! Brad and I looked at each other and Brad said I think we should do foster care. I looked at him and said I agreed! And really the rest is history.

 

After all the paperwork and home study we were ready for children. We were placed with 2 little people almost immediately. We loved them and were thrilled to have them in our home. After about 3 months in our home they went back to live with their bio parents. People have asked me: was it hard? Of course it was, but God is so gracious and loving. He gives us the strength we need.

 

 

After about 2ish weeks, we had our second placement. Now this is where it gets long and crazy. But I will say we have 4 beautiful children in our home and we are blessed to get them all in a 9 month period of time! I know crazy!!!! But I LOVE it! I wouldn’t change any of it. Watching God provide, watching God work, watching God change their little lives, watching God change our lives! What a wonderful/crazy life God has chosen for us!

 

That all being said. It’s not easy! But God provides such grace and mercy to us. We don’t always do it right, but His mercy is new every morning!

 

We have a lot of people say: I could never do foster care! And my reply is: Yes, you can! Is it easy to love children who have no home? Yes! Is it easy to let them go back to their bio parents? Not always. Is foster care needed? Most certainly!

 

There are over 400,000 children in the foster Care system in the US! Isn’t that a shocking number. That’s 400,000 children that need to be shown the love of God! 400,000 children that have no idea what a functioning, stable home looks like. 400,000 children that need us to show them that their story doesn’t have to continue to be a nightmare. That God is the one who can shine His glorious light in their lives. But how will they know that if we don’t get involved?

 

Please consider foster care and the change you can make in a child’s life. It wasn’t about growing our family for Brad and I. It may have started that way but God showed us it is about giving these precious children a home that they wouldn’t normally have. The benefit is that someday we may be able to adopt our wonderful children!

Honoring Your Child’s Birth Mom on Mother’s Day

 

 

 

Mother’s Day can be an emotional time for women.  Some women have lost their mothers while some have lost children, others are struggling with infertility, and some women have blessed others by way of adoption.  I was a woman who, for many years, struggled on Mother’s Day due to the pain and loss experienced during my own infertility journey.  Once I became a mother through adoption it was not lost on me that I had not come to motherhood on my own.  I would forever share that day, willingly, with my children’s birthmothers.  My husband and I set a tone in our household early on of honoring our children’s birthparents.  They were not simply a means to an end for us.  Our children’s birthmothers had won a place in our hearts that is precious and absolutely unexplainable.

 

Children adopted through international adoption may never have the experience of knowing their birthmothers.  Children adopted through domestic adoption may or may not have regular contact with their birthmothers.  In either scenario, however, it is important for families to be able to honor their birthmothers, especially on Mother’s Day.

 

One way to honor your child’s birthmother can be through the telling (and re-telling) of their adoption story.  This narrative should be shared with our children more than once.  I like to take time before we go to church on Mother’s Day to sit on the couch with my son and daughter and remind them of the moment their birthmothers shared them with me.  I remind my daughter of the special moment that her birthmother was holding her in her arms, stroking her cheek, crying.  How, in that instant, she kissed her gently and placed her in my arms and how I loved her birthmother so much that my heart ached.  My son knows that, during our adoption hearing in court, his birthmother reached out for my hand and held it as my husband was on the stand.  We were united as mothers in that moment, for him. Our children were loved and considered important, above all else.

 

Some other ideas for honoring your child’s birthmother on Mother’s Day are:

  • Purchasing a flower or plant in honor of her and planting it together
  • Sending her a homemade card with artwork by the child, along with photos and a letter
  • Creating a photo book of the past year for her
  • Sending her the child’s handprint or artwork made from the handprint
  • Releasing a balloon that contains a special note to a birthmother in another part of the world with whom you do not have direct contact

 

Make your own tradition.  Follow your child’s lead.  Some children may not want to talk about their placement or birthmother from one year to the next.  That’s okay; however, revisit it the next year because as our children grow and develop, they do become more curious and open to discussion.

 

It is so important that we allow our children the opportunity to love their birthmothers openly.  I once told my kiddos “Just like I can love both of you at one time, you can love me and your birthmother at one time.”  Make it okay.  Make it intentional.

Combining Kids By Birth & Adoption

Choosing to grow your family through adoption is not an easy or quick decision for parents. Mountains of thought, discussion, research and prayer are involved when embarking on this life changing journey. Now, think about all of these very adult concepts through the eyes of a child. Your biological children hold a very special place in your family and play an important role. Actively choosing to do all that you can to prepare them for what’s about to happen is absolutely essential to the future of your family.

Just like using your pregnancy time to prepare your child for a new brother or sister (don’t forget that big brother/sister t-shirt), you can utilize your entire adoption process to prepare them. Actually, you can begin this well before you turn in your adoption application. This is a big concept; let’s talk about specifics and ideas on how you can strive to be successful in this area.

  • Age matters – Take into account the age of your current child(ren). If your child is five years old and you start throwing words at them like attachment, institutionalization, dossier, termination of parental rights, etc., their eyes will glaze over and they will be checked out of the conversation before you know it. Meet them where they are and use age-appropriate adoption language.
  • Frequent and open discussions – Begin introducing the idea of adoption early and make it a part of your frequent conversations at home. There is not an adoption process out there that is fast so if you start talking about a new brother or sister joining the family before you even begin the actual adoption process, it will give them plenty of time to process what is happening and the major changes that are coming. Be open about where you are in the process. In some cases, families must endure long periods of waiting and this can be confusing to young children. If you are choosing to adopt a child from another country, be open with your existing children about the new child’s country of origin and what kind of lifestyle they may be currently living (remember, age appropriate here). If you are unsure of where to start, there are a multitude of books available that serve as great ice breakers.
  • Pray together – Begin including your child(ren) as you are praying for your adoption process and adopted child, even if you don’t know who they are yet.
  • Celebrate the victories – When you complete that mound of paperwork, celebrate as a family. When you receive a referral, go out for ice cream and talk about the new child. Ask them questions like, “What is the first thing you’re going to teach your new brother/sister when they get here?” or “What color do you think we should paint his/her bedroom?” These events will make the process seem more real to your children and they will feel more like they are a part of the process instead of this being something that is happening to them.
  • Spend one on-one-time with each child – This comes into play mainly when you have multiple children. Set up periodic “dates” with each child so they feel special and know that 100% of your attention is focused on them during that time. Utilize this time for one on one conversation about the adoption and new sibling. They may feel more comfortable opening up and asking questions in this setting. You can also use this time to reiterate that even though the family will be welcoming a new child, they are not being replaced. There are also major benefits to continuing this after your adopted child comes home.

Above all, DO NOT consider yourself a failure if the sun doesn’t shine in your home every single day after your adopted child comes home. There is a reason why this is called an adoption journey. It takes time. Your children are just that-children. Give them lots of patience and grace.