Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learning and Reading About Adoption

As anyone who has gone through this process knows, there is a lot of waiting and a lot of unknown time lines. So, one thing we have been doing to make good use of this time is to try to learn as much as possible about adoption and parenting. Talking with others who have adopted or with adoptees is an excellent way to get first-hand advice and find out what to very realistically expect.

On the Internet, there are countless blogs that share a remarkable amount of candid experiences, there are forums and online groups to join, and there are also many articles and avenues for research. As a part of the Hague guidelines, we had to take Hague Compliant parenting classes, which we were able to take online. The online videos we watched covered a wide range of topics: grief and loss, the institutionalized child, attachment and bonding, sensory integration, facilitating behavior change, medical issues in international adoption, and child development. There were also classes that were country-specific, although there were none for Mexico.

We have also been reading as many books as we can find. Our local library system has quite a nice collection of adoption specific titles. We have been checking them out and reading them one by one. We aren't done reading all of them but have read a fair share. We are starting to buy our favorites to always have on hand at home.

One of the concepts that stands out in our research is that traditional parenting techniques can often be counterproductive when applied to internationally adopted children. For example, time-outs are generally not recommended as a discipline strategy. Another interesting concept is family age verses chronological age. It is absolutely normal for internationally adopted children to at times revert to the behavior of someone of a much younger chronological age, especially during times of stress. The behavior they will revert to is sometimes more in line with the number of months or years they have been a part of their new family. As they grow and become more comfortable and feel safe with their new family, they will need help building new skills, referred to as family skills, instead of relying completely on their survival coping skills.

But we are very realistic about it. We know that we can read all of the books in the world, and it will never truly prepare us for what lies ahead. Books can never replace first hand experience. Reading about tantrums is not the same as experiencing them! And we have heard from many families that they have had to pick and choose what advice to take from the books they read or to even ignore it completely. Not every strategy or concept works for or applies to every family. At the very least we are getting exposed to new ways to look at things and to possibilities we wouldn't know about otherwise. So we'll just have to wait and see what works for our family.

Of the books we have read so far, the ones that we felt opened our eyes the most and gave the most practical and useful tips were the following. We are sure that we will be finding more books that we will want to add to this list, since there are many titles on our To Read list that we haven't even read yet!

1. The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family, by Karyn B. Purvis, Ph.D., David R. Cross, Ph.D., and Wendy Lyons Sunshine. 2007.

  • Dr. Purvis led the online courses we watched. The book really helps to reinforce the concepts in the videos. Dr. Purvis is affiliated with Texas Christian University's Institute for Child Development.
  • Here are some online articles to which she has contributed which talk about some of the concepts in the videos and book.

  • This book is like a textbook for international adoption, in a good way. Plus, it has so many practical tips, from games to play and songs to sing to help with attaching and many many anecdotes to learn from. It overlaps many of the same concepts as the first book, but gives even more details to reinforce them.
  • Here are some online articles that Patty Cogen has written.

  • A lot of people criticize this book for being negative. We have read some books that are so negative that they have caused us nightmares. This was not one of them, in our experience. We see the book as a valuable insight into how an adopted child *might* perceive things. No one person or book can speak for everyone who has been adopted. Not all adopted children will feel the same way. We know that.
  • Here is an interview with Sherrie Eldridge conducted by Dawn Davenport who hosts a weekly pod cast (Internet radio show) on a wide variety of themes related to adoption.
Since this posting is already very long, perhaps we will post another entry in the future of other books or articles we have found helpful.

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