Before adoption I never fully realized how much of careful
planning and organizing would be needed to spend a quiet day at home
or take my children to places, meet people etc. Before you adopted you
too might have had ideas how your child would have friends and would
be able to decide where to play in an afternoon without much of your
intervention. I thought I would take my child to a swimming pool and
it would be a relaxing experience and he would enjoy swimming, and my
child would be attentive to me, and of course, my child would cooperate
and be happy to be hugged by me.
Then it turned out that I cannot leave my child just to
get on with anything, and if I do, he causes trouble, hurts my pets,
breaks toys, steals food or other family member's belongings. Swimming
is not that much fun either, he resents hugs and physical contact on
my terms, yet is pushy and heavy-handed when he demands hugs on his
My 8 year old needs a supervision level of a 4 year old
and it is sad and worrying but true. In reality this means that he cannot
just walk in and out of our backyard whenever he wants to play, he cannot
play with other children without adult supervision, he cannot be left
alone with his older but more vulnerable brother longer than 5 minutes,
he cannot go upstairs to his bedroom during the day whenever he feels
like it as he 'stores' food and other 'taken' things there. When he
uses the toilet, the rule is that the door is slightly open, as he may
eat cat food there and other things he gets his hands on (yes, I do
feed him well!) - I want an access whenever I think he is up to something.
Of course there are adopted children who adjust more easily
to their new families, and after an initial period they manage it quite
well. Unfortunately a lot of adopted children have been not only through
the trauma of abandonment and have acquired institutional behaviour
that is now deeply ingrained, but they also have various degrees of
brain and nervous system damage. And those children are very tricky
to parent and it takes a long time and a lot of intervention to give
them the best chance in life.
When I look at my child's and my own life as a child,
there are a lot of differences: I could go to play at friend's houses
whenever I wanted as long as my mother knew where I was, I could play
in my bedroom whenever I wanted, I was allowed to cycle around the village,
play outside by the river or on the street, I was free as long as I
was home at 5 o'clock and my mother knew where I was. I was a "free
range" child. When I compare the things I was allowed with what
I allow my children to do, there is a world of differences.
My oldest is allowed certain freedom like cycling alone
to visit my(!) friends (he does not have his own really). But my youngest
child is very restricted even it is perfectly safe for other children
to play outside in the place we live: it's necessary to keep him out
of trouble and safe to function in my family. I prefer to prevent things
going wrong instead of fixing the problem after the fact. And that is
really what most post- institutionalized children need: not freedom
but structure, and boundaries, and preventive parenting until they prove
they are able to deal with more choices and ultimately with more freedom.
Set up situations for them so they succeed, not fail.
I have to say there are periods when I feel my child can
deal with more freedom, and I give him a tiny bit more of it, but at
the moment when I write this, I just took all this newly gained freedom
back (he was allowed to cycle in front of the house alone during the
last 2 weeks or so) as I just discovered that he had broken my car's
The answer was: "Because I felt like it'.
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