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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thoughts About Emotional Age

I have been doing some reading today and it got me to thinking about when our girls first came home verses where they are now.

Each of them were VERY young emotionally when they were first home, including our oldest adoptee and youngest PRECIOUS daughter,  Miss Alli.... (She was 11 when she came home.)

The things that were common ground among all of them, had to do with finding things around the house and hoarding them.  That means, pencils, scissors, crayons, hair brushes, food items, junk mail, and countless other types of items. 
They ALL did this! 
They would also wear my shoes, or wear them outside and leave them OUTSIDE!   Oh the shoes that I could not find!

The one thing I never thought about, was that it was STEALING.  You know why? Because it WASN'T!
Even though they were old enough to know better gestationally, they were NOT old enough to know better emotionally.
So, instead of accusing them of "stealing".... we simply said, "Oh I see you have my scissors in your room. Those belong in mommy's drawer, can you please put them there?  And the answer would always be yes.  They may wind up in the room again, and the process was repeated. 
We never said, "YOU STOLE MY SCISSORS!"  Because, 1. this would have done nothing to help them, and 2.  Emotionally, they couldn't understand the concept.

When our boys were little, there were all sorts of things I would find in their rooms. Spoons, scissors, paper, FOOD..... I never thought once that it was "stealing".  They were little. They found something interesting or tasty and they wanted it; plain and simple.  Over time, they learned that it was not ok to have certain things and some things were off limits!

In the same way, our children who come to us through adoption learn.  Many times they may be 3 emotionally but 12 physically.  We MUST deal with the 3 year old when it comes to this type of behavior.  Gently letting them know to put things back, not put food in their room, not put their clean socks under the bed, not collect every hair brush in the house or wear mama's shoes ......These are all developmental things that must be learned at the AGE your child is EMOTIONALLY!
To ACCUSE a child who is that young emotionally is damaging to them. It brings them shame and will NOT help them to heal.

I am VERY HAPPY to say after 10 Months of Miss Alli being home, I am no longer looking for pens or scissors. :)  Now, I did have to ask where my shoes were today, but she found them for me right away.  Her wearing my shoes is a compliment actually. :)

I think sometimes we are so quick to accuse... and think badly of our children, when in reality, they are just very young and need instruction.... Once they learn, without SHAME, they catch on very fast, and we can find our scissors! LOL


ArtworkByRuth said...

Very nice post. Great reminder. Hubby and I were trying to guess our O's emotional age almost three years home. The hard part is when they turn 18 and every where they go they are told they are "adults" now.
God bless those uninformed strangers who think they are dealing with normal teenagers. :)

Anonymous said...

Our eleven year old son loves to play "rock a bye baby" with Dad holding him, then pretending to drop him on the couch when the song says, "the cradle will fall." Our son was originally adopted from a country in Eastern Europe at age 5. He came home to us just a couple of weeks ago after that adoption was dissolved.

Your experiences with your girls have been VERY helpful, both for him and for our 6 year or daughter who also came to us after a failed adoption. (She was originally from Russia.)

It is very helpful to remember that they are so young!!!!

Milena said...

Thank you! Another piece of very useful knowledge. I just hope I will remember it all until June. So many of these facts are so useful also when "only" hosting..... We host for 10 weeks, so it's rather long! I wish I could host you too so you could advise me what to do when the challenges pile up high...!

Annie said...

The hardest thing about some kids is that their age changes in different situations. Our Maxim has more depth of experience than any young man his age, and is an "old soul" in some ways....but when it comes to many practical things he is like a 9 or 10 year old....wanting me to make phone calls for him, etc. (And when I made the mistake once of just telling him to do it, he called a state office and just left his first name - no last name, no number - and requested a return call!) I had not stopped to think that when regular kids were learning these basics he was learning English and how to be in America, and how it feels to be rejected, and so many other things most kids will never know. Now I try to have him rehearse such things with me ahead of time.

I'd forgotten how Sergei went through all our drawers! We thought it was so funny! Somehow I realized that it wasn't that anything was wrong with him - but he'd not had much experience with "personal property" yet. Let's just say - he caught on.

Christie M said...

Annie that is so correct. They can go from one age to another and we can get left behind thinking, "What just happened?"

I think rehearsing things is brilliant.

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