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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Help Me Help Them

Thanks so much for all y'alls well wishes... I continue to get better every day, but - as the Husband says - it is slow going. And, while I truly appreciate you suffering through my whining yesterday, I need to stretch your patience yet again and ask a favor.

There is a family at our church that the husband and I do not know well at all... like, we've chatted a handful of times and that's about it. They just arrived home this past weekend after adopting their two-year-old daughter from Ethiopia. They also have two young biological sons. The momma shared on her blog, then in an email to me that the transition has not been smooth, to say the least. I called yesterday to check in and offer a meal, also briefly sharing that we experienced a similar transition and that I'd be around anytime she might need to chat.

I am bringing them a meal on Thursday, and of course I've been praying for them, but I need some other ideas, keeping in mind that I don't know them very well. Can y'all think of any practical ways I can help this family during such a difficult time? I'd draw on my own experience, but the husband and I truly didn't know any other families who had adopted internationally at the time we adopted the Tongginator. And that time was all such a blur, anyways, I doubt I could remember what might or might not have been helpful.

So... any ideas, y'all? I would love to offer some support to this family without overstepping boundaries.


Aus said...

Morning TM - OK - from a dad's perspective who has to support a mom that is really 'stuck' with the lion's share of bonding and dealing with sibling issues....

Be there with her.

That's really all she needs - the knowledge that a BTDT is around and can 'hang out'.

Offer to let the other siblings come over (if they aren't in school) and hang out with T while she gets some one on one with the newbie.

Watch the newbie interact with the sibs and see if there is anything you can offer once you watch the interaction.

Reassure her that the kids will have to 'work it out' on their own until they find their own balance.

Remind her to look at things from the kids perspective - not her's. Once we get our minds into what is important to the kids, then at least we can understand that 'it' is what they want. It doesn't have to be reasonable to us - and it definately doens't have to be what WE want (all of this within reason - we have to maintain some discipline and control).

Listen to her - probably what she needs most!

Pray with her - or at least offer to. And understand if her relationship with the Father is rocky right now, I KNOW that He understands that!

And the next time you see dad - let him know that it's OK - the balance will come - and he's allowed to not like it and feel bad about it - and most importantly - it.is.out.of.his.control. All he can do is support and love his family right now!

How's that for a start?

hugs - Blessings on you for helping out - and Blessings on this new family!

aus and co.

bbmomof2boys said...

What a tender heart you have!

Aus gave some great advice. You know the drill though - keep consistency in place, one-on-one with the new little one but also with the 2 sons. Let her grieve. Remind mom and dad that this is all so new to the 2 yr old. Sights, sounds, smells - she's being bombarded.

Other than listening and praying, maybe offer to help pick up, do some laundry, run some errands.

You are a great person to not only recognize that they need some help but to actually DO something!!


Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

Having very recently lived a difficult attachment period with a 2 year old boy (who are we kidding, things still aren't perfect), I will tell you what a friend of mine did that meant a lot to me.

She took the two of us to lunch at a Korean restaurant, where he acted like a terror, but loved the food. Every time he tantrumed or squirmed or hit me, she would shrug and smile and say, "it's fine". When I cried at the table, she reached across and grabbed my hand.

She also made us 2 meals and when she would call me to check in she would ask me about our bonding and she would be completely non-plussed and non-judgmental when I told her I felt like I was babysitting and I was ready to go home.

She also cries with me in joy when we have the good kind of breakthroughs with our boy.

She's an awesome, wise friend and she hasn't ever adopted, but she gets it.

Prayers for your friend.

Keating Mom said...

Great, practical ideas. Will she have more meals coming in from the church? Also, maybe more importantly, just knowing someone else has BTDT is HUGE! Knowing there's someone around who doesn't see her child's behavior as a direct result of her parenting skills, and would listen to her, and like Aus said, just BE with her...really invaluable! Oh, maybe work out with the husband a time when you can take her out, even for a coffee...just to five her a moment to breathe and talk and cry... Also praying here for your friend.

Goodness and Mercy Mom said...

Dear TM,

I'm an old reader but a new follower. Love your recent post on "Love and Adoption."

You probably have more advice to offer than I ever will, but my friend (adoptive parent of 3 bio girls and one adopted from China at 18 months--now 9 years old) gave me great advice when we were about to bring our son home.

She said that after months of praying and waiting to get H., once she finally brought her home, there were no "mommy feelings." H. was fussy and difficult. She was grieving and didn't want to be held, or eat, or sleep. But my friend said she "played the part" of being a mom who loved her until the feelings came on both ends. Now she can't imagine life without H. and H. is one of the sweetest little girls I've ever been around. But it took time for that bond to grow.

We brought home an 8 year old son (from Guatemala) this past Christmas. Although we knew him well (it took two and a half years to get him home), Daniel tested us tremendously when he arrived. He'd go into a moaning cry if we corrected him or asked him to do something like pick up his toys. Sometimes he would have tantrums and meltdowns, often in public. I think he was testing us to see if we really loved him. There were days of "Lord, what do I do?" that bordered on "Lord, what have we done?" But he's now been home five months and he no longer has tantrums, rarely cries, and pouting is minimal. He is becoming the precious child we knew was hiding under all that hurt.

I think there's some shock when we bring our adopted kids home and it's not like a Hallmark commercial. Just like having a bio. child, no one tells you about the sleepless nights and colicky days, mastitis and episiotomy woes. Those newborn days are hard, just like the newborn days with an adopted child are hard.

The above advice is great. Just be there for her, let her know she's not alone, and reassure her that wonderful days are ahead.

Much Love,

Anonymous said...

I've never gone through this. But I think that in pretty much any situation, a listening non-judgemental ear from someone who's been there is invaluable. Don't worry TM--she'll see your heart.
Also, do you read Owlhaven? SHe's adopted 4 from Ethiopia, including 2 older, and I know it hasn't been all sunshine and roses. She's a cool person and I'm sure would love to be a resource. Let me know if you need her email addy.

Andrea said...

Giving her time alone with the new little one is so crucial! So are meals, lots of meals, never ending meals if possible. Mostly she needs to know that the hard adjustment is normal and that it will pass in time and probably not as quickly as she'd expect. She needs a safe place to talk about the struggles and be comforted that she's not a bad parent, just a new adoptive parent adjusting to the new normal. In the meanwhile, she can be encouraged by this wonderful collection of videos from Dr. Karyn Purvis:

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

I have nothing insightful to add. I have no BTDT experience, but I am reading the comments, hoping to gain insight. . .I'll just leave my sarcasm. . .

DON'T infect them!

(Seriously, I hope you are well soon, and I would think a non-judgemental shoulder to cry on and a good laugh now and then would do wonders for. . .well, just about anything!)

Lucy said...

Isolation was the thing I was most surprised about when we adopted. Second was the surprise of what a challenge it was to bring a child into my home who was mobile rather than an infant. The demands on my time were great.

I so desired to have people call, invite me out (including husband and children), just being friends. I was very lonely. I was also overwhelmed by the work and demands on my time. Having meals brought in, help with normal chores would have been amazing.

I found that it was a challenge for our friends and neighbors to "accept" us as a family. We had looked one way for 13 years, then suddenly we looked very different, but there was no pregnancy and build-up to this new family. Folks even struggled with whether they should have us a "shower" because we didn't really have a "baby", we had a "toddler." My guess is they may be dealing with some of that same awkwardness. Perhaps you could have then some type of "Our Changed Family" shower. Which might include gift certificates for dinners, Amazon.com (to order needed items without going shopping), Things you need for a busy family with toddlers rather than infants, etc.

Hope that's helpful.

Pickel said...

Offer her a little time out away from the kids if you can. Even if she just needs to go to the dentist. I REALLY needed that. And, she needs time alone with the 2 year old if possible.

Holly said...

You are a cool person! Wish I knew you IRL!
I have so been there done that.
I think that offering to take a few meals would be much appreciated. Also, letting this Mommy know that IF she is interested in getting out for an hour for coffee or sprite or WHATEVER...at some point, you are willing. Letting her know that you struggled when your daughter came home was a great idea. Sometimes when we're swimming in jello it feels like we will never reach the other end of the pool. Sometimes we are so focused on our own trial that we can't really receive encouragement from others...and then again..sometimes we can. I say offer to be a listening ear but don't be offended if she doesn't take you up on it anytime soon.
Praying and taking meals will be SO valuable. And I have a feeling you might be making a friend on down the road :)

Myrnie said...

Maybe invite one or two of the kids over to play, to give more "mom" time. Just listen, knowing that some things in this life will stay broken, and you can't fix. Just having someone to listen, without judgement or helpful ideas, can ease a burden enormously.

Good luck- you're a kind soul.

Chasing Dreams Photography said...

You are so sweet!!! I think making meals is a wonderful idea!!! She must be exhausted and not having to worry about dinner is wonderful!!!!!

Natalie said...

Like others have said, at least offering to watch the other two for a bit so that she can have more one on one time with the new child might help although if she doesn't know you well she might not be comfortable with that yet. It's still worth the offer. I also second the suggestion of taking her out for coffe or dinner or something so she can talk about her transition if she wants or simply do something that isn't all about adoption. Sounds like you are already going above and beyond. She's lucky to have you thinking and praying for her.


prechrswife said...

I think you are on the right track, and you've gotten some excellent advice in the comments. I don't really have any further advice, other than like the others have said, just be there if they need a listening ear.

Tina said...

Sounds like some wonderful advice. My suggestion would be to print the advice listed here to let your friend know how many people understand and care and want to encourage her along the way. We brought home our daughter @ 10 months and our son at 3 years. Very, very different bonding experiences. I've been thru the easy adoption and thru the hard adoption and there is light at the end of the tunnel but it is so hard to see it when you feel alone. Let her and her family know we're all cheering them on and we know all the joy to come will out way any pain or struggles they're facing right now.


Lisa said...

All of these suggestions are amazing and I would suspect, spot on too!

:) Glad you are on the mend ~ let's hope the end of the school year and summer brings months and months of good health! Kindergarten was a rough year health wise for our crew too...ugh! This year? Not a single missed day due to sickness and Mama faired well too! :)

TM, so wonderful u wish to help ~ I might add dropping her a quick call when you r heading to the supermarket to see if she's low on milk, bread, etc. Running errands with 3 wee ones won't be easy right now! Also yes, offer to come around with TG and play with the little boys (and the sweet girl if she's ready) to give Mom some quiet time and another adult to lean on a bit as needed.

What about the wonderful adoption & attachment books out there? Does she know of them or are they accessible from your library?

Help her find other local IA families ~ are there groups she can join to begin building connections once things settle a bit?

Recently a friend who has both bio. kiddos and an adopted child told me that when you give birth there is so much celebration and warmth ~ but when they returned home with their almost 1 year old most folks presumed they wouldn't miss a beatt and sort of *forgot* to offer help and fully celebrate. But in so many ways these kiddos can be like newborns in those first few weeks/months. She was surprised but fortunately had close friends and family members who could step in to help.

Wishing that blessed family all the best!

shelley said...

Maybe you could send a pizza delivery over. Homecooked meals are great but sometimes you need some pizza.

The two main things going on with the child (probably) are fear and feeling out of control. Remind her to focus on making those two things important to tackle everyday. Make sure he/she feels safe and under control as much as she can. This is such a hard period for ANYONE who adopts....it truly will get beter after time. If nothing else, mom will begin to understand the child more.

We will pray for a better bonding time too.

LucisMomma said...

you may not be close, but wow you have a lot in common. Now is the time to extend friendship in this manner--take the boys to the park with you during the day, invite the boys over to watch a movie with you and T with popcorn and sprite and play with them.

You go over with breakfast for the next day (everyone brings supper) and just visit and let yourself chat with the mom. I bet she has lots of questions or just unload on you.

I like the idea the first poster had of taking just one boy at a time to give the other time to get to know the new sibling.

Please let your new friend that Susan in Alabama is praying for her and her new blend of family.

Tonggu Grammy said...

Let me know if she is interested in connecting with my friends down here who just adopted a 3 year old from Ethiopia. She arrived here in late Jan. or early Feb.

Andrea said...

Hi - I'm thinking about the little one newly home from Ethiopia - how about trying to provide her with some familiar foods, spice smells, photos to look at, etc?

Also, for young children, sensory play like playing in water (warm especially, in the sink or bath), playdough or clay, is really relaxing and soothing. Also being outside in the natural world - playing in the grass, fields, woods, brook, etc. Again, very soothing to the spirit (for children *and* adults!).

Finally, I would suggest trying to find a couple of special books and pieces of music that resonate with the child and parents that can begin to become part of their own special family traditions. All of these suggestions can be used with all of the children (with the exception of the foods/smells/spices from Ethiopia).

Best wishes to them. Things will get better...

Andrea in Vermont

Sharie said...

I would say do her laundry, but that might be weird when you get to her husband's underwear:)One of my best friends went to a garage sale and brought me an entire bag of CLEAN baby clothes when I brought Amelia home. It was the BEST GIFT EVER! I didn't know what age or sex she would be, or what size, so I had 3 outfits when I left for China - they were all too big. I bought some stuff there, but Amelia was having issues with lactose and getting sick constantly. I was exhausted and had no time/energy to do laundry.

Go to the park with her and the kids - you and T chase the other kids and keep them occupied so she can spend time with her new little one, but get out of the house.

If she's comfortable take the boys alone so she can nap when the new little one does.

Those are the things I appreciated. Naps, clean clothes and fresh air - food didn't even matter:)

Wanda said...

TM - you dear, sweet thing. I couldn't add anything to the already sage advice above (which I'm thankful for as I learnt a few things reading them).

Just be you - that what you do best.

Janet said...

Okay....all I know about this is that the mental and emotional help is ESSENTIAL. She needs to be able to "vent" to you without you thinking she is horrible and that she hates her adopted daughter. She needs a safe place where she can just say "it", because she fears that after longing for her for so long, that now she is an ungrateful wretch for being this miserable, for thinking this might have been a mistake. Assure her that is not that case, that it will get better. Oh....she needs YOU! Just be there for her. Tell her that others have been down that dark path and have emerged....HAPPY....and LOVING their child. Oh, please offer her hope! Sometimes it feels so hopeless. I know YOU know all this....but your friendship and understanding is what will make all the difference.

Janet said...

PS- Don't know if someone mentioned the "fake it" approach already in these comments, but quite frankly, it really helped me. I just told myself that I had to PRETEND that I was happy, in order to make things change. And then one day...I wasn't pretending anymore.

The Gang's Momma! said...

I love the "fake it till you make it" advice. There are so many moments in mothering where doing the right thing, with or without the feelings accompanying it, is a valuable tool to have in our arsenal. Although, I prefer to call it acting in faith - it makes it feel a bit better :)

All the other advice is amazing. I fear that in our own "Take the Year off" approach, folks assumed that that meant we didn't want or need support. Often I felt like I was left hanging out there trying to figure out this little person on my own. Shrinking her world was absolutely the right thing for her but that isolation and that lack of meaningful connection was hard. Next time around, I'm going to have to find a better balance in that particular area.

Good stuff, thanks for all the ideas everyone!

Patty O. said...

I agree with everyone else's comments. My first thought was to maybe take the other kids out somewhere to give the mom a bit of a break with her new daughter.

But really, I think what she will appreciate the most is knowing that you have been through similar struggles and that it got better. As a mom, I can only imagine the guilt, fear and possibly disappointment she is feeling. And we often don't like to admit those kinds of things because we think they make us bad moms, so knowing you struggled could really reassure her.

The Byrd's Nest said...

Oh I am SO thankful this family has you in their life. I think just slowly become a part of their life. Just your presence will help her....slowly sharing your experiences will make her more comfortable and especially her seeing where you are with your own daughter now. She will probably not call you or ask to do things with you but I know from experience (because I had a friend do this) that the more she called and asked to play together or just have a diet coke....I was so grateful to just be with someone who understood...I was not alone and now she is just like a sister to me. I still call on her and she calls on me also.....God is good.

Aunt LoLo said...

I second the idea of having the other kids over for a playdate. Or even just call it babysitting them.

Just call and check on her...assume you're helping, until she tells you to back off!! You probably know, when you're in the midst of troubling kid moments...it's almost impossible to step back and remember to call someone for help!

Chandra said...

Nothing is better than food brought in and someone to listen.

However another idea:
When we came home with a 'not so easy child', I really needed a shower, all by myself, without the kids crying outside the shower door. Sometimes you need to just show up, and tell mama to go shower and take a minute alone to regroup!

I also did that for my daughter when she brought home child #3 (from Ethiopia).