04
May
09

New Insights for Mom

Recently I posted about what I feel is a must-read book for adoptive parents, Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen. I decided to give some more specific examples about how this book helped our family within a couple of days of finishing it.

First, let me say that after reading this book, my feelings on sleep issues have completely changed. Our son’s sleep issues aren’t the worst we’ve heard about, but in the last 2.5 years, we’ve probably had three or four nights of uninterrupted sleep.

The first week was a nightmare, but after that things slowly started getting better even if it meant Mom sleeping on the floor with him since that was what he was used to in Korea. Now he’s been home for 2.5 years, and he still walks up at least once a night calling for us. Maybe it’s habit; maybe he really needs the reassurance that we’re still here; maybe it’s a little of both.

Over the last two years, I’ve been envious when I’ve heard adoptive parents talking about how their kids sleep through the night, in cribs, and have from the first night home. But after reading this book, I’m thankful that our son feels like he needs us in the middle of the night.

Cogen says that often being a “perfect sleeper” means that the child has learned to manage on his own and doesn’t have a sense of connection to his parents. “A child from the age of seven months through six or seven years of age who is connected to a parent does not want to separate from Mom or Dad, even to fall asleep,” Cogen writes. As she goes on to describe what she calls “Five Family Skills for Sleep Development,” I learned that it seems our little guy is right on target with his sleep issues. So thanks, Patty, for turning what I’d perceived to be a negative into a huge positive for our family.

Second, the book helped me navigate what I believe to be an adoption-stress issue that occurred recently when a family member came to stay with us for a month. After the first day or so, our son’s behavior went through the roof. Tantrums at the drop of a hat; waking up crying and sacred (instead of his normal calling for us). I’ll admit J has tantrums from time to time (he’s 3 years old, after all) but it seemed his behavior had escalated from what it normally is.

We noticed similar behavior last year when my parents stayed with us and thought it was weird that he seems fine in a hotel but out of sorts when he’s at home but has in-house visitors. We thought it was age-related and didn’t give it much thought.

But in the book Cogen talks at lot about thinking of situations your child has experienced and seeing how situations he is currently experiencing might bring up memories or trama for him.

So after reading that, I got to thinking about a time when our son met and spent time with strangers–when he met us. I got to thinking that maybe he was thinking this family member would take him away. So I talked to J about the fact that this family member will leave our house but he will be staying with us and Mommy and Daddy would continue to take care of him. J seemed surprised by this. After this talk his sleep went back to normal.

Then my husband had to go on a three-day business trip and things escalated more. The second day my husband was gone, our son woke up from his nap in a meltdown. I contributed to the issues too because without thinking, I let this family member take J to the bathroom in a store without me going into the store. The way J was crying you’d have thought he was being kidnapped, which he actually might have been thinking. Then J took a second nap that day, which he never does.

My husband travels frequently so it didn’t dawn on me until after these incidents that my son might be thinking that this family member, who is male, had replaced Daddy since it’s usually just the two of us when Daddy travels. We again had a talk and it helped some, the behavior lessned, but didn’t go back to normal until Daddy arrived home and J was sure Dad wasn’t being replaced with a new dad.

I’ve only offered these insights up to a couple of people I know. One fellow adoptive parent related to the story because her son had recently experienced some similar changes and reactions to them. But most people think I’m nuts. Why would a well-adjusted kid think he is getting a new family or a new dad? Maybe because it’s happened to him before. Oh, they say, but he was just a baby then; he doesn’t remember that. My belief is that while he doesn’t have conscience memories of the losses he’s experienced, but those memories are stored in his body and sometimes his subconscious remembers.

Our society sees adoption as a happy, one-time event in the lives of everyone involved (more on this theory at a later date). While since becoming an adoptive parent I’ve never subscribed to that belief, it’s nice to have Cogen’s book, which provides insights, examples, and activites to promote connections between parents and children. I truly believe it’s helping me to better understand my son and the trama he’s experienced (which might be minor compared to some, but is still trama none the less), and is giving me ways to reassure him and help him process what he’s experienced.


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Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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