Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Take a deep breath and jump into the New Year!!

It’s that time of year that we grown-ups start thinking about all the “what if’s” from the past year.  What if we had lost those 20lbs that we said we would, what if we had gone organic last year, and what if we had kept up with date night with my spouse?  It is so easy for us to look back and be frustrated with what we did not do. Take a moment and remember all you did do this past year.  Breathe in and breathe out and realize that you did what you could.  Look back at some pictures from the year or your Facebook posts and remember all the accomplishments and events that happened.  

Take one more deep breath and get ready for another year.  What the year consists of is up to you.  If you want to bring joy to it, you will be able to find some joy in almost every circumstance.  If you want to explore the world, you will find a way to explore every small moment.  The year is not written.  

Here ……  We ……. Go ……

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How can I encourage my children to make New Year’s resolutions with me?

Making New Year’s resolutions may or may not be a tradition for you, but even if it is not it can be a great way to teach your children about working to improve a part of their lives.  

It does not have to be at the turn of the New Year but most of us want our children to grow to be adults that recognize their shortcomings and work to improve themselves.  Children will always model the attitudes and actions of the adults closest to them so it’s a good opportunity for us adults to work to better ourselves too.  

1.        Talk to your children in a positive way about one of the ways YOU would like to improve YOURSELF.  This means that if your goal is to lose a little weight, avoid making comments about how fat or ugly you feel.  These phrases and terms can really get stuck in your children’s heads for a long time.   Focus instead on wanting to have more energy and be well balanced.  

2.       Ask your children if there are any habits in their own lives that they would like to work to improve.  Be very careful her NEVER to lead your children to what YOU think they should do.  Chances are you have talked to them in the past about actions they need to work on or behaviors that are not appropriate or healthy.  Your children will already remember that and you don’t need to repeat yourself.  Work instead to let your children contemplate the question.  It may take them a few days to understand and come up with something they want to work on.    

3.       When your children come up with an idea, support it and invite them to explain it more thoroughly.  Ask your children why this action and why now. Talk about how they will feel when this habit is created (or eliminated).  Express to your children how proud you are that they have decided to take these big steps and let them know you will be there through the process.  Ask your children to partner with you and hold each other accountable.  

4.      Work together on the steps.  Sometimes a life change can be just too big to start or stop right away.  For example if your daughter wanted to find more friends at school there may be steps involved in that.  The first would be to think about who is friendly.  Then next would be to involve the new friend in a few activities at school.  The next might be to invite the other child to eat lunch with her.  Next you could invite the child to the house to play.  

Another example might be that your son wants to get better at baseball.  The first step might be to practice catching for 15 min every day, and then he might add 15 min of hitting every day.  Working to get a coach or tutor might be a step that is taken, and you might want your child to earn extra money or do extra chores to pay for it.

5.       As your children begin to work through these steps there are bound to be disappointments and horrible days.  That is expected when changing a habit.  That is why working as partners with them is such a great idea.  Your children can nudge and encourage you in your new habit forming/breaking endeavor and you can do the same for them.  This is a very big step. As a parent it is our first instinct to come and fix the problem or tell them how to fix it and what to do.  However, it is very important to let your children lead this process.  You can encourage them with comments like “I saw that it was very difficult for you to choose to work on hitting the baseball today, but you kept at it and did it even though all your friends were outside playing Frisbee.  I am proud and I see that you are working very hard.”  Or “I know that you were very disappointed when your new friend Emma did not want to sit with you at lunch.  It is very hard when you ask such an important question and someone says no." 

Working with your children to improve part of your life can be a great connecting experience.  And the benefit works for you, your children and the relationship you have together. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Families Grown through Adoption: Public Adoption

Over the last few months I have been re-posting articles I wrote about Adoption for my good friends at Regarding Nannies. I encourage you to regularly take a look at what they have to offer you as someone caring for children.  

As I adoptive mother myself, this is a topic I love to talk and write about.  The decision to adopt was easy for me and my husband.  Choosing the method was a bit more complicated.  In picking a Public Adoption we knew we were risking our hearts a bit more but Nadia was worth it.    

Public Adoption has many names it is known under: state adoption, foster to adoption, foster care and legal risk adoption.  These are adoptions that happen through a state and local government agency.  Here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin ours is called Children Service Society of Wisconsin (CSSW.)  Many people are afraid of this form of adoption because of the great risk of losing the child.  Unlike most private adoptions, an adoptive family welcomes home the child before the rights of the birth parents are officially terminated.  Speaking from experience this is a giant risk.  

This adoption is free, in fact in most states the adoptive parents are paid to care for the child while they are still officially in foster care.  Often times, but not always adoptive parents are given a stipend and other benefits like state healthcare for the child until he or she is 18 years old.  This form of adoption will generally get a child in your home in the shortest amount of time and is quickest if you are willing to accept an older child or a child with special needs. 
Unfortunately this method of adoption has the most drawbacks.  The risks or dangers are many.  Though most of the social workers you will work with through this system are knowledgeable and friendly, they have very large and overwhelming workloads.  This causes home studies and paperwork to take longer.  There are usually classes that need to be taken and once you take custody of a child, you can expect visits from social workers every other week.  

Also, with this kind of adoption the birth parents generally do not want to give up their child.  The child is usually being removed because of neglect, abuse or parental drug use.  This in itself presents the increased possibility of long term effects on the child.  However, the fact that the birth mom or dad is actively fighting the decisions of the court causes many families to stay far away from this method of adoption.

I said my husband and I adopted Nadia through public adoption.  Though her adoption went smoothly, we had a heartbreaking event with our first attempt of adoption.  We were in the process of taking custody of a 9 month old girl when the courts made the decision she would stay where she was – which was another adoptive family that was neglecting her.  Of course this was heartbreaking and I still think and pray for this little girl named Grace.  

Nick and Esther Crawford have had another difficult road to adopting their little girl Peach.  They had a 1 year old boy when they made the choice to adopt through the state.  Peach is now a 6 year old that has been in and out of foster care for her entire life.  Nick and Esther worked hard to include Peach’s birth mother in their lives even going so far to invite her to Thanksgiving and other family events.  They did this because they wanted Peach to transaction well and they also wanted her birth mother to know she could always be a part of Peach’s life.  This had mix results.  Her birth mother has gone back and forth in her willingness to terminate her parental rights.  Nick and Esther are unwavering in their commitment to Peach and somehow are able to love her birth mother through all these issues.  They are confident they will someday be able to officially call Peach part of their forever family, it will just take time.  

Public adoption is clearly not for everyone, however I believe there is a sense that some of the children in this system have no one else.  I personally know this is what motivates me to adopt through the public system.  And I guess I would say it is one more benefit to this type of adoption.  

I strongly believe that any form of adoption you choose, you are welcoming a child into your home that needs you.  Every family is different and needs to decide for themselves which is right for them. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What do I do when my child starts wondering about Santa Claus?

We want our children to be honest with us.  The best way to teach this is to be honest with them.  When it comes to topics like Santa, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy this becomes complicated.  We want our children to enjoy the “magic” of these special events but we know they will eventually find out the truth.  Most of us want to balance between the mom from Miracle on 34th Street who told her child from the earliest age that there is no Santa and the parent keeping the magic alive far past the normal age.   

On the one hand by encouraging your children to ask Santa for toys at Christmas, having them visit a local Santa and making cookies for him to eat Christmas Eve, you bring your children joy.  On the other hand it is a type of a lie. 

The easiest alternative is to tell your children from the beginning that the story of Santa is just that, a story.  You can tell your children the real stories of St Nick and all the legends of Santa Claus that are out there.  I don’t see any reason you can’t even have them visit Santa.  It can be a fun adventure, like visiting Disney World.  Most of the children understand that the characters are not real, they are made up.  But they often still get excited to see these characters.  Santa can be no different.  The story he brings of giving toys to children in need is a beautiful one.  It is very possible for your children to be excited about the character of Santa but understand it to be a story, not reality.   

A lot of parents though may have already gone down the road of a “real” Santa or you simply have preference and want to bring that magic into your children’s lives in a substantial way.  If this is the case then you probably already are aware there will come a time that you need to come clean.  

I think the most damaging thing for children when it comes to learning about Santa is how they find out.  It is usually from other children but sometimes it is from their own deductive reasoning.  If your child begins to question Santa, you can use it as an opportunity to encourage his detective skills.  “Wow, how did you figure out the mystery?  What were your clues?”   

When your children’s bubble is burst by an older sibling or school friends it can be more devastating because it may seem to them like you have been holding out.  Focus your attention on how your children are feeling about the issue and let that be your guide.  Help them with the deductive reasoning. 

If at this point you make up new stories and fabricate more lies to cover the original lie that can damage your relationship.  If you continue with the myth, when they eventually find out the truth they will not only be crushed but they will then remember you trying to continue with the lie.  This can be devastating, not only because Santa isn’t real, but because mom and dad lied to me about it to “make me behave better.”

Once your child starts questioning the truth, it is time to end the story.  However, you don’t need to just blurt out “Santa is not real.”  Be honest with your child and explain that your intention was to bring joy and excitement to him, not to hurt him.  Again you can praise the critical thinking that went into discovering the truth.    

It is better for you to tell your child a little too early about the true identity of Santa than it is to wait until he finds out from someone else. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What should I do when my family does not agree with how I raise my children?

Ah, families.  Don’t you just love them?  On one hand they bring support, much needed relief by way of babysitting and stability for your children.  But sometimes those very things we love about our families can drive us nuts. 

Most of our parents were brought up in a different generation and they tend to believe their generation did parenting right.  They look around at all these “new” techniques and parenting rules and think “well if that is the right way to raise a child, I did it all wrong.”  They might have a tendency to feel hurt and offended if you choose to raise your children differently. 

I honestly believe that EVERY parent is and has always done the best they could with the information, support and mental abilities that they have.  It is very easy to look around the world, maybe even your neighborhood, and see examples of parents being less than perfect.  It is important to remember that these parents and our parents love their children.  They very possibly have experiences and issues from their past that we could not begin to understand.  It is also very easy to think about our own childhood and wish we would have been treated differently.

More than likely as you were growing up you thought or even muttered the words “I will not do that when I have children.”  The chances are almost as great for you to now understand why your parents made the choices they did in disciplining you.  That does not mean that you will want to repeat every parenting decision made by your parents.  
So when it comes to your children, your parents might still feel like they know what is best and they may not be afraid to tell you it.  This can bring frustration, tension and family turmoil.  

When I am working with families that feel they are being pushed to discipline their children in ways they do not feel is right by their children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members, I remind them that there may be some wisdom in what they say but that our culture and understanding of children’s development have come a long way.  No parent will ever be perfect. Your parents might have messed you up by doing “x” but you were able to get over that and have turned out to be a pretty decent person.  I am sure there will be many ways that I will mess up my children, but they will eventually recover from my mistakes as long as I also give love, care and as much patience as I can muster each moment of the day.  Children are much more resilient than we know. 

The best way to both include your extended family in the lives of your children while knowing they are on a “similar” page when caring for your children is to involve them in discussion on the way you plan to discipline your children.  This needs to be done with a non-judgmental attitude.  It would be very easy for the people that raised you to feel you are angry or bitter about the way you were raised.  Start by letting them know that you understand how much they love you and always have.  Talk to them about why you are choosing one parenting method over another and what you have learned about it.  

If they will not understand you have to agree to disagree, but ask them to respect your wishes when it comes to discipline. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Should I be teaching my two year old son the alphabet to make sure he is not going to fall behind other kids?

Guest post by Deborah McNelis, owner/Brain Insights

You are obviously a very caring parent that wants to do all that is best for your son. However sometimes it is difficult to know what is the best direction isn’t it?  It is wonderful to share with you that brain science can help. Due to a wealth of brain research we now know the way children learn best.

I am going to begin by asking you a few questions as I lead to clarifying what is going to help your child learn in the most optimal way.

M  Z  @  Y  X  Q  R  #  W * G  L  D T

Does the above have meaning to you? What if I asked you to say it out loud repeatedly? Would that help you know what it means? Maybe you could sing as you say the names of the letters and symbols. The repetition and singing will likely help you be able to memorize this sequence of letters and symbols. But, in the end will you have learned anything?

Frequently two, three, and four year old children are encouraged to do this type of activity and it is called learning. When children of these ages are saying or singing A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L …. there is no meaning to a young child.

Children can do it, but there is no REAL learning taking place. As adults we understand that these are letters and they represent sounds and they create words. But, to children these letters are abstract.  

The brain learns with real objects first. Then as higher areas of the brain develop, the brain is able to think and learn about things that are not experienced directly with the senses. 

The same is true when flash cards are used with young children. Children just memorize and repeat back words on the cards, but there is no real learning taking place. 

Think of a child that is looking at a flash card with the picture of an orange and the word, ORANGE  printed below the photo. With the repetition of a parent saying orange when showing the picture, the child will learn to say, "orange". 

Now, compare the difference of a child seeing a photo on a card to a child holding, smelling, and tasting a real orange while hearing the word "orange" .. .. (and other words like juicy, sweet, soft, and round). It is easy to see that a child would make MANY more brain connections through experiencing a real orange. It really is simple.... REAL learning for young children happens through real experiences.

So for you to help your child learn best all you need to do is provide fun interactive experiences.  Through opportunities to explore, touch, taste, smell, hear, poke, pound, pour, manipulate, and throw children directly experience and learn about the world. This is real learning and this is what developing brains need most.

For REAL brain development activities ideas to use in everyday life go to www.braininsightsonline.com With Brain Development Packets you can learn the very easy way to provide what your child needs … even during your busy everyday life!

Deborah McNelis,  MS -Education
Deborah is an author, speaker, educator and parent. Her passion is to achieve the best possible outcome for all children and make brain development common knowledge.
As an Early Brain Development Specialist and owner of Brain Insights, Deborah is the award winning author of, The Brain Development Series. She has been seen in several publications, heard on numerous radio shows, and receives rave reviews for her enlightening and engaging presentations. Deborah is overjoyed with the response to all that her company provides due to her passion to create awareness of the critical importance of the early years.
In addition to the brain series she has also created a brain packet called Naturally Developing Young Brains. Deborah has additionally created the Love Your Baby App, a valuable newsletter, the Early Childhood Brain Insights blog, and the BRAIN Initiative. Her newest initiative helps entire communities, “Create Great Connections”. Her goal through this work is for everyone to gain an understanding of early brain development, it’s impact, and the ways we can all easily make a REAL difference.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holidays are coming up, how can I make them less stressful?

It seems like every year we go from mid November through to the beginning of January on autopilot.  There are family functions and parties involving way too much candy and food and WAY too much stress.  We tell ourselves every year that this year will be different.  By the time January 4th rolls around we are exhausted, stressed and feel like we need another vacation.  How about we give it another try?  Here are a few tips to make this holiday season more memorable and enjoyable for both you and your children.
1.             Make commitments wisely.  During the holidays, everyone wants a piece of you.  There are so many fun events and parties, but don’t forget that YOU get to make the decisions about what you will do and who you will be with.  Take a minute to think about past holidays.  Of all the parties and events that come up, which ones did you enjoy?  Talk with your spouse or significant other and even your children about the activities that they love to do, the ones that really bring the joy of the season for you.  Separate them from the activities that just added stress and frustration to your lives.  Decide together what celebrations you will attend.  Say no to the rest and try hard not to feel guilty about the rest.  It will be a challenge to STICK TO IT but keep remembering you get to choose. 
2.            Holiday cards for some are a headache.  Lots of people are now sending e-holiday cards.  These are a great option for some people and can even be sent personalized.  However for some that just does not feel right.  I remember every year my mother (who was a teacher) did not finish our Christmas cards until after New Years.  Why not make that the plan. These days a lot of people are opting for New Years Cards instead of Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza cards.  That way it is one (or 200) fewer things you need to do in the middle of shopping, baking, cooking, cleaning and partying.  Maybe it can be one of the things you work on when your children are enraptured by their new presents (for the whole day that that lasts.)
3.            Consider using some of this new found time to give back to other people.  Maybe you know of a needy family you could bless with extra gifts.  You could take advantage of the many charities that help the underprivileged this time of year.  Maybe it is a family friend that you know has been struggling lately and you show up with a big meal and some company.  Whatever it is, you will be amazed at the seasonal joy giving to others will give you. 
4.            Gifts can drive person nuts.  For me, I am always terrified that I will miss someone.  I have the recurring dream this time of year that someone shows up at my door with a gift and I have nothing to give them.  The first step here is to take a breath and realize that your friend or neighbor is giving you a gift because they want to and are NOT expecting anything in return.  If this continues to be something you worry about it is pretty easy to prepare some small “universal” gifts for such occasions.  Maybe you make a trip to the store and get some premade cookies or chocolates.  Keep them in the freezer or fridge ready to go in case someone surprises you with a gift and you want to return the favor.  One of my favorite things to do is bake my own “family” cookies.  I always make extra for these occasions. 
5.             It is amazing how we adults can make things so very complicated and children have a way of simplifying everything for us.  If you think about your childhood or ask your child to think about the holidays they remember, you might be surprised to find that they things they remember the most are the simple ones.  Like taking a drive or walking around to look at all the holiday lights.  Or helping make cookies that ended up burning.  Remember that of all the things you do this season what your children will remember the most are the attitudes and atmosphere that surround them.  They will remember snuggling on the couch watching a Christmas movie more than they will remember how perfect the tree and decorations were.

 Don’t try to do it all, do what is fun and forget the rest.  You will find yourself on January 4th a happier and healthier person for it. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Families Grown through Adoption: Private Adoption

Over the last month I have been re-posting articles that I originally wrote for Regarding Nannies website this summer.  I encourage you to check out their great ideas for working with children. 

Today I am continuing my discussion about methods of adoption with Private Adoptions.
Private adoption is any adoption in the USA that utilizes an adoption agency.  Sometimes the adoptive family finds the birth family on their own and simply uses the agency for the legalities of it all and sometimes the adoptive family works through the entire process with the agency.  If you are an adoptive family that found a birth family on your own, it is also possible to use a private lawyer.  I still consider that a Private adoption.  

This type of adoption has a lot of benefits.  Like a foreign adoption, you are working with a group of people that know what they are doing and are able to help you through every part of the process.  After the application and home study is complete, the adoptive family puts together a portfolio that tells their story.  This is what birth mom’s will look at to make the biggest decision of her life – whose family her baby will go to.  Once this portfolio is complete, adoptive families have nothing to do but wait for a birth mother to make the life altering decision.  This can take weeks to months and even years.  

Then again it could happen in the blink of an eye like it did for Valerie and Will.  They learned through someone they knew, of a baby that was 3 days old.  They had to work through 6 months of applications and home studies in 2 days so they could fly to meet their baby girl.  For this adoption everything went well.  Their second adoption did not go as smoothly but they now have two beautiful children Debra-Jane and Sam.  

Domestic private adoption is a more doable price.  It can cost anywhere from $12,000 to 20,000, which certainly isn’t free, but is not as steep as the foreign adoption.  Most of this cost can be recouped eventually with the tax incentive I talked about last Thursday from the US government.  This fact makes private adoption a real possibility for a lot of families. 
So once a birth mother chooses an adoptive family, things move forward.  However there are still some potential bumps in the road.  At any moment, even up until 2 days after the birth of the child, the birth mother has the right to change her mind and keep the baby.  This has broken the hearts of a good number of families including Robin and Scott.  They had been chosen by an adoptive mom and flown to Georgia to be present for the birth.  They spent 2 days with the little baby girl that had been promised to them only to have the birth mom change her mind just before signing the necessary paperwork.  Scott and Robin had to fly home empty handed, save the car seat and all the supplies they had bought thinking they would be flying home with a newborn baby.  The good news here is that a few months later they got a call that there was another birth mom that had chosen them.  This time all worked out well and they now have two beautiful children – Ella and Emmett. 

Another possible distraction is if the birth father is not willing to give up parental rights.  This can potentially stop the entire adoption but will at least cause things to drag on longer and make things more expensive because an additional lawyer needs to be paid for by the adoptive families. This happened to Steve and Jennifer with their first child.  It meant that they were not able to bring him home for almost 2 months due to a court hearing to legally terminate the parental rights.  They were eventually able to bring him home and now have 2 wonderful children; Josiah and Sam. 

Next method of adoption is Public Adoption, the method my husband and I choose.  

Check out the other adoption artcles:


Families grown through adoption: BOOKS

Families grown through foreign adoption


Families grown through public adoption

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How can I encourage my child to play with other children?

Some children are naturally drawn to other children.  They thrive on the energy of people around and even at times act out when they do not get the interaction.  Other children prefer to be alone in their play.  This is natural and nothing to be concerned about.  After all, adults are the same way.  Some of us are introverts and some of us are extroverts.  However, it is important for our children to learn to play with other children to some degree.  After all this “play” will teach the child to “work” with other adults as they grow.  The Lego tower that is built today may become the skyscraper of tomorrow.  The compromising, accepting and collaborating tools that children learn by playing are invaluable to them as adults. 

For those children that do not thrive on the energy other children bring, there is a level of persuading that might need to be done.  Most lessons can be learned by children through a model.  That is where you can start.  During your play time with your child, work on modeling these actions.  Don’t just tell your child what to do, but collaborate with him.  Ask questions that will lead him to the right answers, let him make mistakes in what he is doing.  Don’t just give in and “do” whatever he wants to do, but work with him to negotiate.  Make it clear that there are some events that happen in the play time that you are not completely pleased with, but that you are willing to accept these things and move on. 

The next step comes in groups of children.  Begin by playing with your child as he plays with others.  Avoid phrases like” go play with them” or “why don’t you want to play with them?”  Instead use phrases like “Let’s go see what those kids are doing,” “I wonder if she wants some help with that?” and “He looks like he might want someone to swing with.”    Go over to the group with your child and sit down.  He might need some direction like “maybe you could help him fill up his pail with sand” or “what if you helped him climb up the ladder?”

These phrases will make your child think and imagine what it would be like to engage with other children.  As your child begins to interact don’t immediately walk away.  He might suddenly get nervous and come to you for more guidance.  If your child expresses fear of playing with the other children, validate the feeling. You can even talk about how sometimes you are nervous to talk to other grownups too.  “Sometimes I get afraid of talking and working with people I don’t know, too.  It is hard to be brave enough to play with someone you don’t know.  You might wonder sometimes if they will like you or what you say.  But I believe you are brave enough to do it.  And if you don’t like playing with them after a while, you can always go play by yourself again.”

Don’t push your child into it.  This will only cause him to try and run.  Be present in the play as long as your child needs you to.  Express your understanding of the fear but also your trust in his ability to learn to play with others.  By doing this consistently your child will have the courage to play with new people and eventually will not need you by his side. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Families Grown through Adoption; Foreign Adoption

Two weeks ago I re-posted the first part of an article I wrote for Regarding Nannies sharing some favorite books about adoption for children.  Today I am continuing to re-post that series.  I highly recommend checking out Regarding Nannies web site for great tips and ideas for nannies and parents.  

Over the next few weeks I hope to give you a better understanding of why families choose adoption, an explanation of the types of adoption, some real life stories and tips to help nannies support the families of adoption better.  

There are many reasons a family might choose adoption.   Some families have spent years trying to conceive and found adoption a last effort to have children.  For some families biological conception was never an option.  Some families are able to conceive, may even have biological children but found adoption as another way to grow their family and fill a need.  Whatever the motivation for adoption, when the family makes the decision to adopt, they then need to decide what method and form of adoption they will choose.

There are three basic “methods” of adoption; foreign, private and public.  There are also a three “forms” adoption can take; open, semi-open and closed.  Before we discuss the method it is important to understand the forms adoption can take.  

When a family has an open adoption it means that the child has regular contact with someone in his or her birth family.  If a family has a semi-open adoption the child does not have direct contact with the birth family however pictures, updates and sometimes even letters are sent to the birth family through a third party like the adoption agency.  This is intended to continue contact between parties so if the child and birth family choose at some point, a reconnection can occur.  In most places this legally cannot happen until the child is 18 and the birth parent must also be willing to meet.  Often times in semi-open adoptions the connection is lost at some point due to moving or change of heart.  

Closed adoptions occur when the adoptive family has no contact with the birth family.  This normally happens by choice of the birth parents.  It is important to note that in most states once a child is officially adopted, it is up the discretion of the adoptive family to make the choice whether the “open” status will continue and to what degree.  If an adoptive family notes that it is harming the child to have contact with his or her birth family, they can pull back the amount of visitation or cancel it all together.  However, if possible it is often in the best interest of the child to continue some form of openness.  

The first method of adoption we will talk about is foreign adoptions.  These are families that adopt from somewhere outside of the USA.  Every family making the decision to adopt from outside the country does so for different reasons.  Often times families want to know that once the child is here in the states with them, there is no way he or she can be taken away.  Adoptive parents may also not want the stress that can come from dealing with birth families.  

Though be benefits are great, there are also disadvantages to foreign adoption.  First is the cost.  It can be upwards of $40,000.  The US government offers a nice incentive to adopt, about $12,000 in tax rebates over the following 3 years after the adoption is finalized, but that still leaves the family with a $20,000 + bill.  This option is out of reach for many families.  

Another drawback is lack of information, like birth families' medical histories.  Of course this can occur in any type of adoption where the birth parents are unknown but is more likely to happen in a foreign adoption.  The lack of a medical history can prove to be challenging when trying to diagnose sickness, allergies or diseases.  Often adoptive families have to assume their child has everything in his or her family medical history.  

Adoption is a long process, but foreign adoption can seem like an eternity.  Often times a family will take months to go through the application, home study and be chosen to adopt a child, only to wait again to get to see the child.  Issues can arise like a particular country suddenly being closed to adoption.  This is what happened with Chris and Mike.  After they learned they had been chosen to adopt twin boys from Russia and had seen pictures of them.  Suddenly Russia put all adoptions on hold.  With no idea whether or not they would open anytime soon, Chris and Mike needed to make a difficult decision.  Would they stay the course and pray that Russia opened soon or would they move on and try to adopt from another country.  Chris and Mike chose to stay the course and their boys; Caleb and Josh, are now 12 years old!

Another downside to foreign adoption is that teens go through a period of “finding themselves.”  Adopted teens may want to know more about their heritage, roots and birth families.  There are many programs that can help children learn about the culture of their birth land, but often learning anything about birth families is difficult if not impossible.  This could add to the teenage nature of “rebelling.”  For Sherri and Stacy this is a real concern for her now 8 year old daughter adopted from China. Elizabeth was left on the steps of the orphanage when she was just a day old.  They have no information to console her with but the clothes she was left in and their understanding of the social climate that led to her surrender.  Sherri feels it is a double edged sword and she wonders how her daughter will deal with when she is older.  

Check out the other articles on adoptions:


Families grown through adoption: BOOKS

Families grown through private adoption

Families grown through public adoption

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Should I lie down in my child's bed at night?

Every family is unique.  This is never more true than when it come to sleeping arrangements.  While some of your families have no issue with what is called a “family bed” (children sleeping in the same bed with their parents while they are young) it will just not work for others.  For those that find it difficult to get a good night of rest with their children in the bed or for parents that simply need their own space, bed time can be a nightmare when your child refuses to go to sleep. The pleading “Snuggle with me mommy” can be hard to refuse.  When it happens, the last thing you want to do is ignore the request for love and positive attention.  Beware, it is very easy to fall into the habit of sleeping in your child’s bed and is one of the more difficult habits to break your child of.  Once your child becomes accustomed to falling asleep with you next to her, she will have a hard time going to bed without you.  

Unless you are okay with this becoming a long term event, I strongly advise parents to not ever fall asleep with your child in bed.  There are authentic needs your child might have (fear, sickness, overwhelmed or sadness) so don’t disregard your child’s desire for connection with your through these means.  However, there are many alternatives to sleeping with your child in those moments where she needs you. 

You could put a chair next to her bed and sing songs, read a book or be silent as she starts to drift off to sleep.  I like to keep a reclining chair in my children’s bedroom so that we can snuggle together without being in her bed.  For a short period of time, you could snuggle with your child in YOUR bed.  Snuggling in mommy or daddy’s bed is a very special treat at our house but also needs to be used with caution. 

Whichever technique you use, it is important that you leave the room before your child falls asleep.  This is important because if you leave the room after she is asleep, she most likely wake in the middle of the night expecting you to be there.  Even if you verbally tell her you plan to leave the room when she falls asleep, she will be looking for you.  In most children this will cause an alarmed feeling.  She may eventually remember that you told her you would leave when she fell asleep but the damage is done.  She is now awake and will remember only the panicked feeling she had about it.  So the next night when you go to put her to bed she will be even more insistent that you stay in her room.  You now have a bad night time cycle.  She wants you to stay with her, you stay until she is asleep, you leave when she falls asleep, she wakes to find you gone and then next night remembers the feeling of you not being there with her, so she wants you to say with her……..

By giving your child extra night time attention before she is asleep without sleeping in her bed  you are meeting her need to connect with you and making her feel safe.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Families Grown through Adoption: Books

From “Bragelina” to the family next door, adoption is everywhere these days.  I recently wrote a series of articles for Regarding Nannies on the topic.  These blog posts are reprinted from there.  I highly encourage you to check out their website.  It is chock-full of great tips for not only nannies but any parent!!  

It is very common for a nanny to work for a family that has adopted or is in the process of adopting a child.  Being a nanny and adoptive mom myself, I have a unique view of it.  In the next few weeks I will be sharing a little of my experience as well as the experience of a few other nannies, hoping to help you – my nanny friends understand the motivation behind adoption and learn some ways you can better support the adoptive families you might work for.  

Books are a great way to introduce children to new ideas and events without ever having to experience them.  I love to take a trip to the library every time my children and charges begin to explore something and pick up a few books on the topic.  It has helped many children in my charge transition to new things.  

Naturally I find books are a fantastic way to help children understand adoption to be both normal and wonderful.  Very young children will not understand there is anything different or unique about being adopted but as he or she grows and sees other families, they might start to wonder and ask questions.   Children’s books range from helping with single families, multiracial families, same-sex parents, international and foster families.  The books listed below are just a few of my personal favorites and the favorites of a few adoptive parents and nannies I talked with.  I hope you find them helpful.  

A Mother for Choco

God Found us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant  - good for closed adoptions and religious - another favorite of mine (ages 4-8)

Over the Moon by Karen Katz good for foreign adoptions (ages 2-4)

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose A Lewis and Jane Dyer – good for foreign adoption (ages 2-4)

Just in Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado – not specifically for adoption but is universal and religious (ages 4-8)

You are My I Love You by Maryann K. Cusimano- not specifically for adoption but is universal (ages 4-8)

Did My First Mother Love Me by Kathryn Ann Miller- good for children that begin to ask questions about adoption (ages 5-10)  

Shaoey and Dot by Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman – good for foreign adoption and religious (ages 4-8)

Shades of Black by Sandra L. and Myles C Pinkney- not about adoption but good for white parents with children with darker skin (ages 4-10)

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis – not specifically for aboption but works well (ages 2 -4)

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury – not specifically about adoption but works well (ages 4-8)

A Personal Touch of Adoption collected by Berlin Peter - collection of stories about real adoptions (ages 4-12)

Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell good for same sex couples (ages 3-8)
Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman – good for children in foster care (ages 4-8)
I don’t have many suggestions of books for teens and young adults about dealing with the stress they have so please feel free to comment on the post if you do!!!

Even if you don’t work for or have a family grown through adoption these are great books to check out. All children would do well to understand adoption a little better.  I hope you take a trip to the library and find some of your favorites.  

Check out the next posts about Adoption

Families grown through foreign adoption

Families grown through private adoption

Families grown through public adoption