Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Smiles and Trials

I've been meaning to post for awhile now, but it's been a rough couple of weeks. It's really easy to share all the good things that are happening in our family, but when the going gets tough, I'm not as eager to sit down and share. Even now, I'm not too sure how this post is going to go, so bear with me!

I've been hearing a lot about the "honeymoon" period after adopting. I read about it on message boards, blogs and have been warned about it by our pediatrician. Apparently, it's common for adopted children to come home and be perfect little angels as they are afraid they might not be kept by their new parents. This period is said to last about six months...and then the "honeymoon" is over. After that, kid's try to push your buttons to see if you will really keep them. (This is all just a theory and obviously not the case for every adoption) Well, the DAY Emma was home for six months, it's like someone flicked the switch and there ended the honeymoon.

Our main problems right now are lying and stealing. Let's start with they lying I guess. This has been quite an issue, as Emma lies to keep herself out of trouble. Even if we ask her a question and she thinks she might be in trouble, she'll lie to cover herself. It's quite frustrating, as the lies are blatantly obvious.

Next is stealing. The first couple of times we thought it was quite innocent and Emma didn't really understand about ownership and that is wasn't right to take something that isn't hers. We reprimanded her a few times for this. But, soon enough, she was sneaking around, taking items that we would later find in her pockets or hidden in her bedroom. The issue has ranged from finding objects on the floor (not a big deal) to going through somebody's purse (huge deal). After the purse incident, I was quite shocked. It turns out that she got caught taking chapstick out of the purse and the owner gladly gave it to her after she was caught. A very nice gesture, but maybe added fuel to the fire.

Last Monday was the first time Emma was caught stealing at school. She went through another child's desk and stole some chapstick. After dealing with several incidents already and knowing that Emma knew it was wrong, Terry and I were livid. We took her straight home from school and issued some serious serious I thought stealing would not happen again.

Tuesday after school, the teacher advised me that it had happened again. OK, now I was mad. Off we go to tell daddy what happened. We decided to dole out the same discipline we had the night before. We wanted to stick to our guns and show Emma that she could not get away with this. After the second night of punishment, I thought FOR SURE it would not happen again.

Wednesday morning we had a good chat before school about stealing. Emma listed off the consequences of stealing and reassured me that she did not want to be punished again and that she would not go into anyone's desk. Well, Terry received a call later that day that Emma had been sent to the principle's office for stealing. My heart absolutely broke when I heard about it. I couldn't take another night of punishing her!

That night, Terry and I sat down and had a long conversation. Obviously, the techniques we were using were not working. In fact, after the punishments last week, we saw some regression in Emma's behaviour. She wet herself, which she hasn't done in months. I was very distraught over the whole situation. It was awful to see Emma regress, but at the same time we didn't just want to dismiss the stealing.

After our long discussion, we discovered (like, duh!) that as much as we want her to be, Emma is not a child who has been born and raised by us, so we can't expect her to behave like one. Not only that, the life she lived before she was in our home was in no way stable. We are dealing with a little person who has dealt with a ton of trauma and grief in her life. There are so many things that can be triggering this behaviour and we realized our reactions may have been a little harsh and may even be causing the behaviour even more. The discipline on Wednesday was lighter than what she had received earlier in the week and that night we spent some time and really loved on her.

I wish I could say that resolved the stealing issue, but it didn't. Emma was also caught on Thursday and Friday at school and by us over the weekend. We've lightened up on the consequences and are just trying to instill in her that what she is doing is not good.

As far as lying is concerned, we've lightened up in that area as well. We are easily able to catch Emma in a lie. Instead of getting upset, we've started talking to her about why she is lying and telling her to never be afraid to tell us the truth. We know lying comes instinctively to her out of fear and we are trying to get her to change her thinking in this area. We've let her know if she tells us the truth about something she has done wrong, there will be no consequence. She has since then told us the truth a couple times about things she had done.

This past week I came to the realization of how challenging it is to parent an older adopted child with "baggage" (as Terry would call it.) It's hard to know how to react in all situations. We know things were not good for Emma at the orphanage and my stomach turns when I see fear in her eyes when we get upset. I can only imagine what she's thinking or what sort of memories this brings to her. I don't want her to ever fear us as she did her caregivers. But at the same time, you can't just let bad behaviour go...see my dilemma? This is difficult for a type A personality like me, who has to know the answer to everything. For now, we just take one day at a time and ask God for guidance as new situations arise. We really believe the choices we make now and how we react to bad situations are going to determine the relationship we are building with Emma. And we want that relationship to be one of love and trust, not of fear.

One thing I've learned over the past week is that I am not alone. I've been doing tons of reading online and have come across similar situations on message boards and blogs. I have to commend so many adoptive parents out there who are dealing with problems on a much larger scale. I know lying and stealing are some of the easier things to deal with in an adopted child who may be suffering from RAD, PTSD, FAS, FAE or ADHD. I feel like a little whiner writing this after reading what some parents have gone through. Truly, my heart goes out to you and your families. Thank you for never giving up and for sharing your stories to encourage people like me!

On a lighter note, I am posting some pictures of our Valentine's Day. We spent an awesome day together swimming at the wave pool. I still can't believe how fearless Emma is when it comes to swimming. The wavepool is very dangerous and I've had to pull her out of waves that were overcoming her a couple of times, but she still loves it.

Unfortunately we didn't take the camera to the wave pool and I was just kicking myself for it. The pool has a dive tank with a diving board. It took some coaxing to get Emma on the diving board and when she got to the end, she was too afraid to jump in. So we had daddy jump in the water and wait for her beneath the diving board and I walked with her to the end and encouraged her to jump to daddy. She finally took the leap of faith....face first. She completely submerged underwater, but her lifejacket quickly popped her back up. She came up screaming at the top of her lungs. Not a scared scream, but a totally excited I-wanna-do-it-again-and-again type of scream. I swear she went off that diving board at least a hundred times...face first each time. And she totally loved it.

After swimming, we came home for some chinese take-out and cookie decorating. Pictures posted below:

Daddy's Cookie:

Mama's Cookie:

Emma's Cookie:

And, of course, the dog's cookie:

Eating Cookies:

Auntie Kim's birthday is on Valentine's Day, so we celebrated on Sunday.

Emma's idea of helping mama bake a cake:

Borrowing Uncle Chad's sunglasses:

Souvinir Auntie and Uncle brought back from Disneyland:

Well, there you have it...some good stuff and some bad stuff.

Today I took Emma to pierce her ears. Boy, was that an adventure. I'll have to save that post for another day. See you soon!

BTW, yesterday was the first day Emma didn't steal from school. I'm sure the issue is not resolved, but it's a step in the right direction. :)

1 comment:

  1. I've just found your blog, too. Your daughter is darling!

    As for the negative stuff, I'm glad you had the courage to post about it. Too often people only want to hear the happy stuff (at least those who don't really get it, anyway :-) But it is also very important to acknowlege what else is going on that everyone doesn't see...both for yourself, and for those who only see the cute happy "normal" child.

    Is this type of behavior a sign that the "honeymoon" is over? Perhaps. But more likely it is a manifestation of a bigger issue that many people overlook - insecure attatchment. Personally, we never got a honeymoon with our kids, so I don't really know what it feels like for it to be "over." But almost always when I hear people talk about the honeymoon being over and all that comes with it, 99% of the time, this is what they're talking about.

    I can't even begin to tell you how many new AP's I've heard say that their kids are "firmly attached to them" just months or even weeeks after coming home...or worse, even before they come home! Reality is that NO child is securely attached that quickly. It is a process. It is also a learned skill. If the child was attached to a primary caregiver and received proper care, particularly in the first couple of years of their life, they can transfer that skill to a new caregiver and can attach to them in a few months without any problems or issues.

    But for the vast majority of our PI kids, that early essential nurturing and care was lacking, inconsistant, or completely non-existant. Depending on several other factors that often get thrown into the mix (abuse, deprivation, abandonment, improper or incomplete medical care, fetal alcohol exposure, etc) that process of attachment takes much longer. The good news is that even severely hurt kids can learn it, and many of them do as long as they get the help they need.

    Especially since Emma is your only child, I strongly recommend doing some studying on what healthy attachment looks like. Many adoptive parents will look at the disfunctional stuff like RAD and immediately discount it because "it doesn't sound like their child." Well, like most everything else, there's a continuum there. Just because your kid isn't burning down the neighborhood, destroying your house, chasing you with a knife, or beating the dog doesn't mean there aren't attachment issues. The real understanding of how attachment should work really does come from studying HEALTHY attachment.

    I really need to put a resource reading list over on my blog because I share this info so often. Mabe someday! Until then, I'll just keep retyping it.

    A couple of good resource books I highly recommend reading...and personally think are essential for all parents who adopt older kids.

    1. "Learning the Dance of Attachment" by Holly van Gulden This is a very easy to understand
    layman's discussion of healthy attachment, the process of attachment, and how to foster attachment with older kids who missed it in their early years.

    2. "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control" by Bryan Post and Heather Forbes - There are two volumes. The first offers so much insight as to why hurt kids do what they do, and the second offers a more practical and easy to understand approach to implementing the therapeutic parenting model introduced in the first book. Heather Forbes does it alone now and has a great website to get you started. There's lots of free articles and daily emails and all sorts of other good stuff.

    3. Especially if there is any known abuse or neglect in your daughter's history, "Building the Bonds of Attachment" by Daniel Hughes is also a good read. Like many other resources, though, this is geared to more severe cases of RAD and the healing process that comes with it. But, there are still a lot of good ideas in there that can be really effective with less severe cases.

    All of these books are very easy to find on the internet. If Amazon or Borders doesn't carry them, just do a search for the book title and you'll find them right away. My state also has a free online lending library that carries a lot of these books. You check them out, they mail them to you, and then you mail them back in their postage paid envelopes when you're done reading them. It's sponsored through DCFS as part of their post-adoption / adoption exchange resources.

    Hope those help!