Tips to Thrive in Those First Few Weeks Home
Guest post by Ginny Henderson
We have been home a month now and I would say things are going really well. This is adoption #2 for us and we have also spent 7 months with a foster child. I am writing this post because I am a member of several adoption and foster care groups and my heart aches for the number of families who struggle in those first weeks home. I was pondering it in the place where I do my best thinking (the shower) and I came up with this:
7 Tips Not Only to Survive but Thrive in Those First Weeks Home:
1. Get some SLEEP girl!
When I lack sleep I am one crazy lady. I have found that bringing a new child into your home through adoption or foster care is just like bringing one home from the hospital. You lose lots of sleep and enter into what we Hendersons call “The Fog.” In “The Fog” you forget what day it is, can't remember what you are supposed to do next, and are super-emotional (like post-partum equivalent emotional).
You have to figure out how to get some sleep. Many of you are also recovering from jet lag which is a whole other issue. Try this – you go to bed early and let your spouse take the evening shift then you be the one to get up in the middle of the night. Your spouse who slept through the night then gets the early morning shift while you sleep in an hour or two. The next night, switch. If this doesn't work for your family, find something that will and get some sleep to battle “The Fog.”
2. Eat Healthy (Avoid the sugar crash)
Okay I realize that I just lost 50% of you because I was you with our first adoption. I lived on Dr. Pepper and Fruity Pebbles. Eating right was the last thing I could think about, but this time it happened unrelated to the adoption. When I gave up Cokes and sugary cereals, my energy level skyrocketed. Two other things have helped too. Advocare makes a product called Spark that has caffeine and Vitamin C in it. It gives you energy and helps keep you from getting sick. Another product I take occasionally is the appetite suppressant from Plexus called SLIM. It helps me control my cravings, balances my blood sugar, and gives me more energy. Whatever you do, avoid those foods that give you energy for the moment and zap you for hours afterwards.
3. Forgive Yourself
Sorry friend, but you aren't going to be the perfect parent.
Confession moment - when we had our foster child we would do great during the day, when it was just the two of us, but when the big kids came home from school he would melt down. He couldn't handle the competition for attention. I needed to help kids with homework, go through folders, clean out lunch boxes and get dinner ready. A screaming kid was not helping me get it done. All I could do in that moment was send him to his room to scream. I explained that he could be downstairs if he could play quietly but laying at my feet screaming was unacceptable.
The Connected Child book says I really messed that one up and I knew it. The Connected Child says instead of isolating him that I should have placed him in “Time In” and then let him have a re-do to get it right. Well folks, I didn't have time or energy for “Time In” right then and a screaming kid in “Time In” did not let my others get their work done.
I wasn't the perfect foster parent and you won't get it right all the time either. Remind yourself that you are leaps and bounds better than where they came from and give yourself some grace every now and then not to be textbook perfect.
4. Stick to the Basics
Occam's Razor says when given two possibilities, the simplest solution is usually the answer. This is so true with these kiddos. They need food, sleep, consistency, and positive physical touch.
For example, if they are screaming in the middle of the night the day after they got home from China, they probably aren't missing their favorite nanny. Instead, their stomach thinks it is Noon. They are hungry. This happened with Maggie. A peanut butter cracker or two later and she was sound asleep.
We tend to overthink these kids. We turn into pseudo-therapists trying to solve their complex psychological afflictions when really they don't need us to figure them out and talk it over with our Facebook friends. They need food, sleep, consistency, and positive physical touch. Remember this acronym I learned in PT school – KISS (keep it simple, stupid). It pays off. Trust me. Besides, you are still in “The Fog” so you don't make a good psychologist right now anyway. You can't even remember what you were just looking for.
5. Establish A Routine and Stick to it
Here is the stinky part on that. You aren't in complete control here. They actually probably own 51%. Maggie does best if she naps from 11:00-1:00. We can push that back maybe 30 minutes but more than that and we pay later. This means I give up lunch dates with friends and walk out of church early. Occasionally we have to violate this, but it is rarely worth it. Remember how I mentioned consistency as one of the basics? A routine / consistency is big in attachment and feeling secure.
6. Be Good to Yourself
For me that means time away and alone. Remember that shower where I wrote this blog post in my head? That was my “me” time today. I also made mental plans to rejoin the YMCA to work out after Trent gets home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Whatever that thing is for you – scrapbooking, exercising, reading, girls night out, etc., don't give it up!!! You need it and that is okay. You are not failing as a parent if you take some “me” time. You will be a better parent when you return.
7. TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
In my family, we don't even mention the word divorce. We made a commitment to each other and taking every thought captive is the first step in honoring that commitment. I look at adoption the same way.
How do you do that? Glad you asked.
You do it by combatting it with the TRUTH.
So a level one thought might be, “Did I make a mistake?”
You combat that with “God called me to this. He does not make mistakes. That which is most rewarding is often most difficult.” Then you think on other times when things were hard and you stuck them out and saw the victory.
If you don't take it captive, then in creeps the level 2 thought, “What are my options to correct this mistake?” and then level 3 “I am justified in taking that step because …”
Sounds a lot like divorce doesn't it?
You have to take every thought captive and combat the enemy with the truth of God's word and His calling on your life.
Remember, as I wrap this up, you are called to more than living for yourself. You have got what it takes to do this well. That which has the greatest rewards can require great work and sacrifice. You are not alone. “The Fog” will be lifted, you will sleep again, you will hit a routine and this will be worth it.
I know it is hard, but I have seen that it is so worth it.