Thursday, July 02, 2009
Preparation for Coming HOME -- Been There, Done That
I was thrilled when our son (adopted at 22 months old) seemed to bond to us so quickly and adapt so easily. Things were going great in Colombia. So, I logically assumed that coming back to the US would be easy.
WRONG! Alex went through a rough few weeks once we got home. Everything was new -- AGAIN! There were new sights and sounds and smells.
So many firsts! We came back on December 26th, so IT WAS FREEZING! He had to wear a parka and boots -- lots of snow had fallen that Christmas. He had to ride in a car seat. He wasn't eating all his favorite Colombian food. Everyone was speaking English. There were also new friends and family members to meet.
All of the changes, seemed to put him back quite a bit. That first week home, he had that "Deer in the Headlights" look -- a lot! He was more whiny and seemed to reject a lot of things we wanted to do for and with him. He suffered several melt downs. He constantly wandered the house -- apparently looking for someone or something familiar. It broke my heart!
So, here is what I wish I would have done to better prepare him for his homecoming. I wish I would have taken a video camera tour of our house and everything in and around it! I would have started by driving up to the house from outside and then gone to the front door. I would have walked through every room, showing him things he could touch -- and not touch. I would have spent time in the kitchen, opening cupboards and the refrigerator -- showing him food that he would be eating and dishes he would be eating on. I would have drawn a bath and explained about the fun times that can be had in a bubble bath with toys (the whole concept of a bath caused major melt down). I would have ended the tour in his bedroom -- showing him his bed, his toys, his clothes, etc. I would have narrated the movie in Spanish myself -- or for those of you who don't speak Spanish -- I would have gotten a friend to do it for me.
I would have watched it with him everyday so that his new life and home would have seemed less new and less frightening. I have made this suggestion to others families and each has experienced success. One father told me that his daughter (age 4) ran straight into her room, "She knew exactly where to go the minute we opened the door. She couldn't wait to get at those Barbies."
Now, some people have suggested that pictures are enough. So, I want to add here that we did have some pictures. In our case, they simply were not enough. I think for a young child, a movie would have been a greater help.
If you decide to do this for your kiddos, please post a comment and let me know how it went.