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On the last track, we discussed preparing siblings. This included family discussion, the "role-play" technique and when siblings are also adopted.
Do you have a client who wants to help prepare his or her prospective adopted child for their first meeting? On this track, we will discuss preparing the new child. This will include the "photo album" technique, preparing the child’s room and pre-placement visits.
Dean, age 40 and Gail, age 38, had three biological children, and were in the process of adopting Nathaniel, age 5. Gail asked, "Moving to a different state is going to be a big transition for Nathaniel, not to mention moving in with a different family! How can we help Nathaniel to begin adjusting before he arrives at our house?"
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3 Ways to Prepare the New Child
#1 Technique: Photo Album
I further explained to Dean and Gail that in preparing Nathaniel’s photo album, they might want to make sure the photo album is sturdy, to be looked at repeatedly. I stated, "You might want to gear the book specifically to Nathaniel’s age. To make the album age-appropriate, you might consider including deflated balloons that Nathaniel could blow up himself, stickers, or other things for Nathaniel to share with his friends."
Since Dean and Gail had other children, I suggested that they cut a ribbon to the height of their tallest child and mark the heights of their other children on it. I stated, "By sending that ribbon to Nathaniel, he will know how big his new siblings are in relation to himself. You might also send a map to show where Nathaniel is now and where you live in relation to him." I continued to stated, "You might write things in the photo album that show you are including Nathaniel into your family. For example, you might say, ‘This is the room you will be sleeping in.’"
#2 Preparing the Child’s Room
I stated to Dean and Gail, "You may want to leave some things undone so that Nathaniel can pick out things he likes. For example, you might let Nathaniel choose the color of the paint. However, it may be easier to leave things such as wall decorations for well after the arrival. You may all be too tired and too stressed to worry about painting and decorating immediately after Nathaniel comes to your home." I have found that many experienced parents warn against overwhelming a newly arrived child with too many clothes or toys. Excitement-filled vacations like a trip to Disney World may also be too intense in the first few weeks.
#3 Pre-placement Visits
I explained to Dean and Gail that it is hard not to set up unrealistic expectations for Nathaniel regarding their family life if they filled their visits with Nathaniel with outings and endless family fun. Dean and Gail, too, could form unrealistic expectations if visits with Nathaniel went extremely well.
I stated, "Children often put their best foot forward during visitation, waiting until they are home and really comfortable before unleashing true testing behavior. You may want to be prepared for all the normal adjustment problems even if your pre-placement visits go smoothly." Have you found, as I have, that many parents are amazed when the happy, sunny child they visited with in pre-placement visits moves in and turns into a misbehaving, surly one?
In my experience, many parents have reported that their surge of panic subsided within twenty-four hours of meeting their child. I stated to Dean and Gail, "There is no way of predicting what meeting Nathaniel will feel like. It has been my experience, however, that a newly adopted child may not offer eye contact, affection, happiness, or gratitude, necessarily. If you feel scared, imagine what Nathaniel might be feeling."
On this track, we have discussed preparing the new child. This has included the "photo album" technique, preparing the child’s room and pre-placement visits.
On the next track, we will discuss shock of the child’s arrival. This will include the honeymoon, adjustment and the absence of immediate love.
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