Friday, September 21, 2007

Adopting Older Children

I have meant to pass this along for so many months; I wondered if I actually had. I don't find it in the search function. I conclude I must have written something about this in the comments section of another blog.

When older children describe wanting to be adopted, they will often frame it in terms of wanting a family. They seldom say "I want a mother. I want a father." Parents, in their knowledge of what children need, too quickly jump to the conclusion that their older adoptive child wants an intimate filial relationship in replacement for the one that is missing. Children sometimes have siblings or cousins, or have lived in a family temporarily, so a parent quite naturally concludes that the missing piece to be supplied is MOM or DAD. I don't think this is so, certainly not at first. Six-plus years later, the closely-bonded mother part or father part of family life is only half-complete in my young adult Romanians. The bonding was occurring at the same time as the natural separation time, and the two desires conflicted with each other.

But they are completely convinced that they belong in this family. They are part of this family, mutually influencing and being influenced by the other five of us. From the start we stressed the more generic belonging to a family over the intense dyadic relationship. They were more comfortable at first having brothers (plural) than having either Jonathan or Ben as capital B-Brother. They are now closer to each of their American brothers than they are to each other.

A next-closer step of having parents is nearly as solid. While they see differences in us, both Chris and J-A seem most comfortable regarding us as a set. They rest comfortable in the knowledge that they have Parents.

While they call us Mom and Dad (or Pops), and have since before the adoption was official, that full intimacy of relationship remains incomplete. As it often remains incomplete even with biological children who you have for twenty years, this is not worrisome. There is the formation of their own families to come, and perhaps children of their own, and these events add connecting threads long after children have left the house.

So I give that as advice if you are adopting older children, or perhaps even if you are blending a family or reuniting with a child: don't push the intense dyadic Daddy/Mommy aspects. Strive to create a generic Family which they are clearly part of - family customs, family habits, family expectations, and let the more intimate relationships form silently.

There is also considerable advantage in teaching relationships from this approach. This is how people in a family treat each other. Tracy's humorous but very serious teaching when boys are leaving the house has perhaps been our best trick in adoptive parenting. "No one leaves without kissing the mother goodbye." It strikes exactly the right note: belonging, affection, and obedience without forced intimacy.

1 comment:

Colonel Robert Neville said...

Dear VIP;

Jeepers! So many very good pieces. Yes, the value of a Family. You're right on the mark in that people need these connections, meaning through time and experience perhaps more than the merely singularish definitions, so to speak.

Yep, thanks for the 'List of Cognitive Biases'. I love learning, understanding and using 'Logical Fallacy's', 'Okhams Razor' 'False Argument' and so on.
They're bloody fantastic and so revealing. It shows that "it was ever thus". They save a lot a time too, Jim!

Also, thanks for listing me. It doesn't hurt! You're one of the few people who use 'innit?' I always use it, cos' it's effective and got a certain swing to it.

Ya writing is terrific. Oh, and thanks for telling me about canon instead of cannon. Its not really pedantic but important and I habitualy follow up on my posts to check, modify and add stuff, as errors can tend to slow and lessen the readers enjoyment.

Though being deliberately pedantic is often very funny and I'm not always sure why. Hence, I'm often very funny. Aah, the cannon's roar and the canon's roar. Funny old world, innit?

All the best from