Monday, July 26, 2010

Week 27 Communication and International Adoptions

Yes, I kind of switched gears today...not a summertime entry but an interesting one nonetheless :)

In our family, one of our children was born in Korea and joined our family at 5 1/2 months of age. Working in a birth to three environment I have worked with children born in many different countries and between work and my own family experience, there are some thoughts that I would like to share with you.

Once again, I put myself in the child's position when I think about interacting with a child. So, here is this child that is coming from a different country, a different culture. If the child is several months old, they were already familiar with their birth country.

1. Sounds: The baby/child is used to how the language of that country sounds. They are used to the music that might have played in the house and the sounds on the TV.

2. Smells: The baby/child is used to the smells of that country. They might be from cooking, they might be from soap, shampoo or cleaning supplies.

3. Routines: Some countries have everyone sleep on a big futon on the floor and sit, play and eat on the floor. Some families have all people share a bedroom.

4. Tastes: The baby/child is used to the formula and the water that it was mixed with. Babies in Russia drink tea from a cup. Other babies have tastes of food earlier than American babies do.

5. Touch: Based on the country the child is coming from will depend on if the child was swaddled or not. Maybe they were worn all day long in a sling sort of device. Or maybe they were not touched or held much. Some children are bathed often and some are oiled and bathed only occasionally.

And to top it all off, they are arriving in this country after a very long airplane ride!!! They arrive in a country where nothing sounds familiar, looks familiar (even the people), smell familiar, etc. WOW, what a hard experience for a baby or young child!!!

So what can we do to help this little person adjust? Think of how you would like to be treated after travelling many hours on a plane into a country that is foreign to you.

Remember when I chatted about sensory integration and issues?? Well this is where some of those things might help us.

Try to watch and see what soothes your child...does he like rocking or swaddling or certain music?

Try to let the child sleep when they are tired and slowly change that schedule to one that fits into your family better.

Don't change their food intake quickly if possible. Try to use the foods they are used to and slowly change it to what you would like them to eat and drink.

Try to limit the amount of new people and experiences they have at first. Let them get used to their new environment and the people in it before bombarding them with loving extended family and friends.

Try all the tricks that I have been sharing about language development. If you speak the language of the country that your child is from, then teaching them to speak both English and the other language. It might take them a bit longer to grasp the two languages but they will :)

If you have concerns about your child's development be sure to contact your local early intervention, or birth to three or Early Steps agency and ask for a developmental evaluation. They can give you lots of tips of how to help your child get to the next step. And if there is a delay they will provide educational specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech therapists.

And here is just something I really want people to think about before adopting from another country. Many parents go into an adoption thinking that with all the love they have they will be able to have a wonderful relationship with their child. Do your homework about the country you are adopting from and how they treat the children before you adopt them. Some children can be very deprived of touch and put in cribs for long periods of time. At times these children have trouble attaching to the families that love them and that is a very sad situation.

Obviously I totally believe in adopting children from other countries and it's one of the best things we ever did for our family. But we did lots of "homework" about all the different countries that were possible for us and decided on the one that worked best for us.

If anyone wants to chat more about this, just email me.

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