Peace of a Father

Last summer I took three of my sons to the Little League World Series. When we arrived, I realized how incredibly crowded this complex was and knew that it would be tough to keep my excited, always-looking-for-a-little-independence children at my side all day. So, I pointed to a specific welcome booth and told them that if we were separated, they were to find this place and I would come there to find them. Even this didn’t seem like a very good plan — there were people everywhere. But it was the best thing I could come up with. And I was also sure it wouldn’t matter anyway, because I was not letting them out of my sight!

childIt had been a good day. The sun had set. We saw some great baseball, and it was time to use the restroom (and the snack bar… again) before heading to the car. Well, the restroom had two exits, and my son Aaron went out a different door than we had all entered. After waiting for him outside for several minutes, I started to think he must be having some real trouble in there, but when I went in to check on him, he was gone. Gone into the dark, into the crowd of 30,000 people.

I planted the other two boys firmly in one place and told them not to move and started my search. I retraced all of our steps from the day, checked the bathroom again, ran through the crowd again, this time much faster and more frantically than before. Nothing. It was time to get the police and go all out on this search.

My heart was racing as I ran to find an officer, and on my way, I ran right past the welcome booth we had identified on our arrival. I had forgotten about it, but Aaron had not. There he stood, hands casually in his pockets rocking back and forth from heel to toe, probably whistling if I could’ve heard anything.

I dropped to my knees and hugged the life out of him (as he is just young enough not to be too embarrassed by this). I asked him if he was afraid. His words: “Nah. You’re my dad. I knew you’d come for me.

1385296_10153402279045713_713493181_nTHIS IS A BIG DEAL. You see, Aaron used to be counted among the fatherless. He was adopted from Uganda about two and a half years ago. But in that time, he has learned the love, security and peace of knowing that his father would be his rescuer and protector. Aaron is no longer among the fatherless. And, only by God’s grace, Aaron is learning the love of his Heavenly Father through me, the earthly father who showed up just a few years ago. To me, this is a perfect illustration of the kind of transformation that happens when a child learns of his place in a family.

 

 

Written by guest blogger and adoptive parent Adam M. Keath, President of New Hope Uganda Ministries

Best of Nightlight: Adopting out of the “Birth Order”

by Laura Godwin

Are you like your siblings? Or do you think that your birth order played more of role in who you are? Or does your genetic make-up determine more of your personality and qualities? Because siblings are raised essentially in the same environment, it stands to reason that we would be more like our brothers and sisters. Yet, reportedly the same home environment makes up only 5-10% of our personality, while genetic factors may have more impact—perhaps up to 50%. This then leaves birth order as another factor that could affect personality. In fact, much research has been done on this subject and quite a few books have been written on the topic of birth order. Most of us have heard that the oldest child is more assertive, conscientious, in addition to being more neurotic, envious, and nervous. Younger siblings are noted to be more creative, open to new ideas as well as rebellious.

So how does birth order affect the adopted child? Does it matter if children are adopted out of the “birth order”? In 1990, researchers wanted to find this out as no study had looked at the impact that an adopted child’s position in the family has on the child’s personality. [1] These researchers studied first-born children placed into the younger child position in the adoptive families. Many such adopted children could fall into this category—the first born child of a birth mother–placed into a family with one or more children. Of course, the reverse is also possible: children could be the second, third, fourth child of a birth mother and the first child of an adoptive couple. In an analysis by these researchers, the rearing order of the children had little impact on personality except for conscientiousness, which was higher for children who were raised as first-born. The child’s sex had more impact than did rearing order.

Although the cited study may be of interest, most adoptive families are not asking what impact rearing order will have on infants who are first born to their biological parents if they enter a home as the second or third child. If a child is an infant, then it is assumed that such a child will have the characteristics associated with the order placed into the adoptive family. What families want to know is what impact adopting children out of age order has on the children already there— especially on the oldest child in the home.

This subject is not found in scientific literature, but common sense and attention to each child’s needs can help in making the decision to adopt out of the rearing order as well as help in the adjustment of the children after the adoption.

First, consider your children’s present ages.  If your children are young, adopting out of order most likely will have less impact on them, than if they are older.

Next, consider sibling rivalry and the need for attention. If you have two young children and are thinking of adopting an 8-year old child, who most likely will need lots of nurturing and attention–especially if the child has more profound attachment issues–you need to consider how a school -age child, who may be more like a 4-year-old emotionally, will affect your life and those of the other children in the home. Although a child may be 8 years old, the child may be physically smaller and much less mature than a 4-year-old child in your home. If the newly adopted child looks like an 8-year-old, it can be easy to see this child as being much older than the other children and expecting more than the child is capable of doing. In fact, most children entering a home are going to have lots of needs and most likely will not be emotionally on par with other children of the same age. You will have to adjust your expectations for such a child. If an 11-year old from an orphanage is an only child, it is easier to treat the child like an 8-year old or younger. However, if you have a 6-year-old in your home, you may find yourself  requiring more of the older child.

Some families have larger age gaps in their children and adopt a child who can fill in the age difference. This means that neither the oldest nor the youngest child’s position in the family is displaced. Again, the chronological age of the child entering the family can be quite different from the child’s emotional age; you may find that this new “middle” child is more like the youngest child in the family.  As stated, it is all about expectations. If you adopt a child who fits nicely into the age range where your children are right now, this  newly adopted child may not blend as well as you had anticipated.

Children, who are older, can also have attachment issues and may have been sexually abused. This means that it can be difficult for such a child to be around younger children. Such children may try to harm the younger children—even if in subtle ways. It is natural for adults  to be protective of younger children. Behavior that parents may tolerate if there are no other children or only older children in the home becomes intolerable when younger children may become victims.

Some therapists indicate that a large percentage of older children coming from orphanages have been sexually abused on some level. (This is also true for children coming from the foster care system.) Precautions need to be put into place, and this will further change the family’s dynamics. The integration of such a child into the family should be done cautiously.  An older child should not be left alone with younger children until a pattern of behavior is well-established. Children should sleep in separate bedrooms and chimes may need to go  also on these doors.

In fact, it is better if a child who has newly arrived sleeps in the room on a cot in the parents’ bedroom for a while so that the child can feel secure. If the child is too old for this, then it would be better if the child has a room adjacent to the parents’ bedroom.

The same precautions that are taken when adopting an older child need to also be taken when adopting a sibling group. Sometimes the older child can harm the younger child. Often, however, the older child is very protective of the younger sibling, as the older child may have “parented”  the younger sibling(s) while in an orphange.

If an older child or sibling group is adopted, and you later plan to adopt younger children, you also need to consider the same issues of having an older child with a younger child in the home.

Experience as parents can also help you decide what age child you feel you can parent. If you are raising pre-school children, jumping to meet the needs of a middle school child can be quite an adjustment. However, if you are around meddle-school age children and feel comfortable with this group, then adopting an older child may be right for your family.

If your children are older, and you will be adopting a child (younger or older), you will want your children’s input on the matter. Although children do not make the ultimate decision on how parents grow their family (what would any “baby” in the family say about being displaced by a younger sibling?), having your children’s input can make them feel more secure and more welcoming of a new sibling. If your children do object to a new sibling, you can discuss with them their concerns and ways that the adjustment can be made better for all.

Asking the question, “Is adopting out the birth order OK?” and seeking advice means that you are seeking ways to make an adoption as successful as possible. Many families have thrived after adopting out of the birth order. It is a matter of preparation, commitment, and, if problems arise, taking appropriate steps to seek support and make adjustments.

For a discussion on adopting out of the birth order and getting advice from other experienced parents go to When Adoptive Parents Adopt Out of Birth Order by Lois Melina in Adoptive Families magazine.

 


[1] Beer, J. M., & Horn, J. M. (2000). The influence of rearing order on personality development within two adoption cohorts. Journal of Personality, 68(4), 689-819.

 

Helping families with the transitions of International Adoption

About one-third of families who adopt internationally have smooth transitions; another third or so have some difficulties, but manage to work through these issues; and another third have serious and more pervasive problems. In these more difficult circumstances, even the best parents are often not prepared. Those families who are struggling need support, like every family—sometimes from friends and families and sometimes from experts.

To get some good advice from professionals and to hear the challenges other parents face, you may want to join Beyond Consequences live 10-session parenting course right in your own home. The first class is complimentary—so take a test drive.

This Free Test Drive will be on Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 9:15 p.m. EST.

Each of the 10 sessions following be on Thursday evenings and run for 90 minutes through November 3, 2011.

You and other parents can ask questions and discuss the specifics of your family situation with the professionals.

Click here to sign-up at no charge for this first class and see how it works on the Internet. Continue reading

Neurochemistry and the Adopted Child

Karyn Purvis, a professor at TCU and the author of The Connected Child, discusses how children’s brain neurochemistry can be negatively changed due to early life experiences, causing the child to have learning, social, and behavioral issues. Neurochemicals are the chemicals in the brain that send signals. So if the brain is not sending the right signals this can affect the brain directly as well as the child’s behavior.

There are six major risk factors to a child’s healthy brain development:

  • Difficult pregnancy:
    This can include drugs, alcohol, and a mother’s dealing with stressful situations.
  • Difficult birth:
    If the mother had a prolonged labor in which child was removed harshly by forceps, this can cause bleeding in capillaries in brain.
  • Early hospitalization:
    Usually an infant will have received less touch, disrupted time with mother, painful procedures, and overstimulation due to medical equipment and procedures. This can be experienced as neglect by the infant and the overstimulation can result in impaired sensory response. Continue reading

Part III: What Parents Can Do If a Child Has an SPD

DaughterHelpingDadwithTieIf your child is having behavioral problems and seems to have difficulty in every day tasks, you may first want to assess if your child has sensory problems. Many counselors may first require your child to have a complete physical evaluation to rule-out certain physiological and neurological problems. There are self-reporting tests, based on your child’s behavior, which you can take to determine if your child meets one or more criteria of an SPD. EEGs and other brain imaging tests holds promise for making a diagnosis—especially of an auditory processing disorder.

If your child does have an SPD and does require occupational therapy, you will want to be actively involved in the exercises and play. An hour or two per week of therapy will not be as effective as your continuing these learned activities throughout the week with your child. Also, an OT can help you change the environment so that your child can better manage stimuli within your home.

SPDs are often associated with other disorders and disabilities, so other professionals may need to be involved. It is not uncommon for children with SPDs to have other delays and may need to be treated by speech pathologists and other specialists.

Continue reading

Passage of International Adoption Simplification Act by Congress November 15th

Washington-DC-CapitolCongress Comes Together to Help Orphans Find Families

Washington, DC – National Council For Adoption (NCFA) is pleased to announce the passage of S. 1376, the International Adoption Simplification Act, an important step forward for orphans awaiting adoption and their families.  On November 15th, 2010, Congress joined together across party lines to pass S.1376, which will allow parents to internationally adopt older children (ages 16 and 17) when adopting a younger sibling. Additionally, S. 1376 will remedy the requirement for needless and potentially dangerous vaccinations for internationally adopted children adopted under the age of ten. Continue reading

Back to school with your adopted child

backtoschoolAs your adopted children head to school — whether for the first time or not — you may wonder how to talk to your children’s teachers about adoption and adoption-related challenges your children face. Heartofthematterseminars.com has prepared a wonderful document to help you think through how to help both your children and their teachers. Download it here: Talking with Teachers (pdf).

Adjustment, Bonding and Attachment

The following is a guest post by Kerry, who along with her husband Scott adopted their daughter Grace from Ethiopia. Kerry and Scott are friends of Nightlight Christian Adoptions and were gracious to allow us to re-distribute this post, which first appeared on their family blog. This post is important for two reasons: it addresses attachment issues that can arise for children who are adopted very young; and it gives the perspective of a mother who’s experiencing these things right now.

Our daughter Grace is giving hugs. You have to ask for them, and she doesn’t always oblige, but when in the right mood she’ll wrap her little arms around you and squeeze just slightly. I’m sure this is a big deal to any parent but in the adoption world, it’s a huge sign of progressing attachment and we are celebrating.

I don’t claim to know a ton about attachment and bonding, but we have read a fair amount on the subject and tried to prepare ourselves for anything. If you are waiting for your adoption to be completed right now, spend some time reading about attachment. Even babies must learn to attach. They have to learn to see their parents as a special and significant relationship, not just a caregiver.

Again, I’m no expert on this at all; I just thought I’d share our story and how we are still seeing growth in this area 10 months after coming home. Our experience has been measured in subtleties that I wouldn’t even have know about had we not read adoption books. We’ve not had a difficult time with Grace. We’re extremely thankful for that. Nonetheless, it’s an area we still put much work and prayer and try to act deliberately. Continue reading

The Virtue of Doing

rubybridgesRecently I was asked by a colleague my thoughts regarding an adoptive couple who wanted to stand outside an abortion clinic and tell each woman that they would adopt the unborn child if  she would choose adoption over abortion.

After considering the family’s plans  for a moment and all the negative press that they could receive, I said it was all right but still wanted to double check on the legal ramifications.

Then this weekend I was reading a book on virtue,  and came across this quote from Ruby Bridges’ mother. For those of you who were not alive in 1960, let me explain who is Ruby Bridges.

In 1960, at 6 years old, Ruby crossed through threatening  mockers before and after school, as she was among the first black children to go to an all white school in New Orleans. At school she was taunted by her classmates. Adults  expressed their desire to kill her and her family; yet with strength and dignity she went  to school  and then home again.

People got to wondering how such a child could have such strength. She had a strong church, pastor,  and a very loving mother and father. But that did not completely explain  why she could do what she did and  not break down. Then an investigator asked her less than educated  mother why Ruby could do this, and this is what she said:

“There’s a lot of people who talk about doing good, and a lot of people who argue about what’s good and not good,” then she stated that “there are a lot of people who always worry about whether they are doing right or wrong.  Finally, there are some other folks: They just put their lives on the line for what ‘s right, and they may not be the ones who talk a lot or argue a lot or worry a lot; they just do a lot!”