Holy doodle, September 9th marks TEN MONTHS since Jonathan moved it!
If we were going to do it all again (which we aren’t;) I wish I would have had more concrete advice on preparing. Practical things I could have been doing while all the waiting was happening, because once we were matched things moved FAST. So, if you are in that ‘almost there you can taste it’ spot of adoption, here’s a list of things I did do that worked well, or that I wish I would have done. I hope you find it helpful!
1. Build your stamina
When you know you have been matched it’s go time. There will be looooong draining days of transitioning as well as those first few weeks, errr months, are hard emotionally, physically, and mentally. Prepare yourself by taking lots of vitamins (seriously!) and eating as healthy as possible to build your immunity. If you work a desk job start exercising now, (taking walks to working out – do something!) You will be zonked by the end of the day for the first while and the stronger you are physically the slightly less zonked you will feel. (I really wish somebody would have told me this one!)
It sounds simple, but you just might forget to do it among all the newness and chaos of your new life with a little person, or people. A few times a day try to remember to take a few deep breaths and regroup yourself. I have a sticky note on my car dash board where I list a few things to remember (slow down, relax, kindness first) but no matter what it always says breath.
3. Don’t go break the bank.
Of course you’ll need to get a few essentials to welcome your new one home, and few things for fun, but don’t go crazy. If you are going to have a party/shower people will be giving you some things and your new little bug may have toys and items that they move to your place. Wait until you get to know them a bit and can tailor some special toys or books to their likes. It’s all so over whelming, you don’t need to overwhelm them, or yourself, with tons of ‘stuff’ too.
4. Get a baby sitter…now!
If you don’t have family close by who will help you out once in a while to have a break, find a baby sitter and find one fast. If you have a partner, you will need time together, if you are doing this by yourself you will definitely need a break! Even if you use that time to nap (er, we may have done that the first couple times we had respite). It’s so important to take a break and take care of yourself – these ain’t your average kids my friends. YOU NEED A REGULAR BREAK. You will loose a bit of yourself with having a new little(s) in your life; new roles, new routines, perhaps not working for a while – it can all be discombobulating. Taking a few hours every couple weeks to go for dinner, go for a walk, go back to your yoga class or whatever else you stopped doing amidst the madness of the first few weeks/months and do what it takes to keep you going during tough days.
So so SOOOO important. For all kids routines are essential, for adopted kids to know what is coming and what is expected will help beyond words. We found our evening routine was the easiest to establish at first. Our days were all over the place as we got the hang of things, but evenings were always the same. Dinner, park, bath, watch a tv show with toast, brush teeth, pee, story, hugs, lights out. Repeat. Establish a solid routine as quickly as possible and stick to it.
6. Attachment games
There are many resources, including some fantastic blogs, that describe the attachment games they have used with their kids. If you don’t have access to a therapist who can teach you directly, just Google or You Tube it or ask around your friendly online adoption community:) (Or stay tuned as I plan to write a post about my favorite ones very soon!) You’d be surprised at the impact these little gems can have, and the simplicity of them may surprise you.
Whether it’s family or friends or co-workers or online or neighbors…I think you get my point…Surround yourself with people who support the idea of adoption and are willing to be called on when you need help. There’s a big difference between friends who understand you needing to leave a conversation 13 times an hour to tend to imaginary hurts, time outs, accidents, and pleas for attention vs. those who just don’t get ‘it’. Finding people who encourage you, empathize with you, and share strategies with you will be so key in this journey. You will also need them to balance out the people that don’t get it so much:)
8. Get a plan…then get a new plan
When Jonathan first came, we had a pretty good idea of what we were doing. Then we had to regroup as his behaviours changed. Then, they changed again and we had to change our responses to him again. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve used an idea for a while then thrown it out. Don’t be afraid to admit when something isn’t working; it’s not you, it’s trauma and change and security and testing…and more! Be flexible to adapt expectations, rules, and plans and well, life!
9. Take advice, throw half of it away
Listen to the experience of others and take pieces here and there and mash them together to make something that works for your child. And you too. Each kid is so different an unique you are going to have to come up with routines, strategies, tricks and tools that are tailored to you, your child and your family. No cookie cutters in adoption land!
10. Have fun
Don’t forget to enjoy! Let go of things sometimes; mess, dirt, chores…even behaviour sometimes needs a hug and understanding not another consequence. Marvel at the little wonder running around your house. When things seem hard and terrible and you find yourself hiding in the pantry, think back to where you/they started from and you’ll see how far you/they’ve come. Be easy on yourself and them too. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Ok, really it’s 11 things….
Don’t be afraid to complain or be upset or mad or anything else other than happy and blissful. What you are about to do, or are doing, is ri-dic-u-lously challenging. We all have bad sneak-half-a-bag-of-cookies-in-the-closet days and just because you may have wanted this so bad, and maybe you fought for this so incredibly hard and waited an agonizing long time, it is still ok to just want it all to stop for a moment so you can catch your breath (or eat a bag of cookies). It is ok to cry and stomp your feet once in a while. Then, pick yourself up and ask for help. Never be shy to ask for help.
(If you can’t tell by now, we coped with junk food for the first while. We are slowly backing off. Slowly).