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Thursday, July 7, 2011


I could not think of a title for this post, so it may change.....:)

I was having a conversation with another adoptive parent regarding emotional ages of our children vs. actual age, or intellectual age.  I also read a few notes on this and felt compelled to blog about it.
Many of us have children who have trauma backgrounds.  There is so much out there in regards to how best to help a child become whole.  There is also much confusing information about different types of attachment therapies.

So, I'll just delve in.

Just because your child may be 18 or 20  months emotionally, yet is 8 years old, or 12 years old,  does not mean you should treat them like an 18 month old all the time, in ALL ways.  YES, it is important to treat the emotional age, right where they are, so they can heal and improve (which happens rapidly)  but that does not mean you would be not allowing them to make a choice for food to eat or what to wear.
An example:
When Alli came home, she was about 18 months in her emotions, 8 in her play and reasoning, (unless upset then she was about 3 in reasoning) and she has very sophisticated taste in other things, and distinct likes for food.
We treat her according to EACH of her needs, and bend with the changes she has like a reed in the wind.
If she is more intellectual, we talk with her at that level, if she resorts to 3, we empathize with her, as if she were REALLY 3, if she needs comfort as a baby would, we comfort her.
This has resulted in 4 months to some really great developments. She is able to express herself well. I haven't seen 18 month behavior in a while.... She is no longer 3 when she is upset..... her play has gone from not knowing how to play, to about what we would see with an 8 year old.  And she is rapidly moving fast in the right direction.
It is NOT an easy task to stay present and know who you are dealing with at any given time. LOL And it can be exhausting.  But the end result is WELL worth it!

Yes, the child who is newly home needs to have limited exposure, and slowly, so they don't get overwhelmed. If they are emotionally infantile,  that does not mean you don't give a choice.  To say that they will just have to TRUST you like a baby would  is a big red flag to me.

You CANNOT FORCE trust! TRUST is EARNED, it is a priveledge.  Our kids are so full of mistrust, that there is no way we can expect trust and to try and force it, especially with what appears to be punitive consequences will not only be counter productive, it will be destructive.
BEFORE attachment (real attachment) can occur, TRUST must be there.  You cannot really attach to somebody you don't trust.
So as parents, WE need to be TRUST WORTHY!  We need to give our children a REASON to trust us.

There is information floating around saying, don't let your kids have any freedoms at all.... this folks is HIGH CONTROL.... (many times what we accuse kids of, is the very thing WE are doing) and it is with HIGH COST and dangerous.
If you have a child who has control issues, or manipulative type behaviors (FEAR BASED) to battle them through high control will only backfire.  Instead, give them small amounts to control.  Ease them into a position of letting you take the reigns in their lives.  They will NOT let go easily, because when they were not in control, things were really scary!  They were hurt, they were neglected, they were abused and abandoned...... So, to be in control is a LIFE SAVING effort on their part.
Just as you would not approach an agitated horse, but you would whisper calmly to them to get them into a different frame of mind, it is the same with our kids....
We need to whisper to them our love, through our gentleness and kindness.  We need to show them and model to them the behaviors we want to see in them.

We have blackberry vines. You can learn a lot from growing a garden and planting and harvesting.There are many analogies  related  to raising children.  We tenderly water, nurture and care for our vines and plants.  We need to flexibly watch our little plants blossom into beautiful fruitful vines.  If we were to prune the vines too soon, they wouldn't survive.  So sometimes, you have to watch a little wild growth here and there and patiently wait before pruning time, so that roots develop that will help the vine connect with the source of life.  For the vine, it is water and soil nutrients.   For our children, it is us. 

Their little hearts will develop deep roots of connection, as they learn to trust us.  And then, we will be able to quench the neediness of our  children as they come to desire more of our love and tender care.

If we try to solve our children's unpleasant behaviors, too quickly, especially those who are newly home... we may quickly find ourselves in a battle as the child will perceive that we are rejecting them.
There is a sort of unwritten code here that is hard to write down.  4 months ago,  I could have NEVER had a conversation with Alli like I did yesterday. She would not have received it and the defense wall would have been built even higher.   Yet, yesterday, it was the right time to do a little pruning. :)

I hope I am being clear in what I am trying to say.  HIGH control is not the answer.

1 comment:

Annie said...

I SO agree with you.

Though I have a hard time knowing when to pick my battles, when to take control...

As a child myself, I nearly always WANTED to be compliant. I'm a "pleaser" in the good sense of the word (desirous of peace and mutual happiness) not out of neediness. My bio children seemed to come with their "appropriate and agreeable" buttons turned on high. Sergei the same. So, I really have a hard time knowing where and when to prune my wild one.

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