Start as You Mean to Go

by: Delana H. Stewart

“Start as you mean to go,” Trish Maskew says in her book Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child, is advice quite similar to what was given to me by a friend who runs a foster home.

In my book Nine Year Pregnancy: Waiting on God—Our Journey of Adoption, I mention my friend Claire’s response to my question about knowing how and when to address discipline issues. She replied, “The sooner you start the better! A lot of adopted families are scared to discipline at first but that makes it hard for you and the child later. At first the child receives a lot of gifts, candy, cookies and ice cream. The adoptive parents  feels sorry for them for being without a family; then all of a sudden the parents decide to stop some behaviors of the child. The child becomes confused, ‘Why should I stop now? I have acted like this from the time they met me . . .what did I do wrong this time?’” (Nine Year Pregnancy, pp 88-89)

In Chapter Four, “The Family in Shock,” Trish Maskew discusses the honeymoon and adjustment phases common to adopting older children (older being three and up). “You’ll probably be happy to have your child home but at the same time not be truly comfortable with him. Your child will no doubt feel the same way.” (Our Own, p. 74)

Recently, our daughter recalled her feelings and thoughts about the day we came to the orphanage to meet her. She said that her teacher came to tell her it was time to meet her family. Our daughter asked if it was her birth mom, to which the teacher replied, “No.” Our daughter then asked if she could stay at the orphanage, to which the teacher also replied, “No.” All this occurred just before we met her, and we had no idea that had transpired until now nearly five years later!

The first months and year holds many adjustments for the adopted child and adoptive family. “I loved that kid before I ever walked across the courtyard to give him a hug; I didn’t like him for probably three to six weeks after that.” (Our Own p. 73).

After a challenging first day and evening with our daughter, I expressed it this way, “The fireworks had come, just not the ones I had anticipated. When would I be overjoyed that after nine years of pregnancy and a year of labor God had finally answered my prayer? How long would it take her to accept me like a mother? . . .We both cried ourselves to sleep that night.” (Nine Year Pregnancy p. 91)

Of the honeymoon and early adjust phase, Trish Maskew reminds parents that “You are, in fact, living with a stranger. She may feel more like a houseguest at first . . . the sooner you begin to relax and act normally, the sooner your child will settle in. It is impossible for a child to know how to act and what to think if there aren’t any rules to follow . . . . assigning your child chores from the beginning is a big step in helping him feel like one of the family.

Start as you mean to go.

The longer you treat your child as a guest, the longer he’ll feel like one.

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2 thoughts on “Start as You Mean to Go

  1. Pingback: Not the Fireworks I Expected « Nine Year Pregnancy

  2. Pingback: Change is Scary « Nine Year Pregnancy

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