Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Adoption Homecoming: Boundaries ASAP

One of the most important and useful pieces of advice we received along our adoption journey was to set and enforce house rules and boundaries as soon as possible upon arriving home.  With all of the emotions tied to adoption, the sheer exhaustion of the experience, in addition to the children's unique histories, hurts, and grieving process, this is a lot easier said than done.  However, it is true and it is worth every bead of sweat your body will produce.  

Last weekend, a friend and fellow adoptive parent arrived home with her three new children.  Watching them walk through the international arrival gate at the airport was simply surreal and being there to watch them cross the finish line was an amazing gift.  Only four and a half months ago were we the ones walking through that same gate, being welcomed by some of the same faces.  Only, what felt like the finish line at the time had instead become a new starting block.  Looking at their new family, then looking at ours, an image of their new race and the one we have been running flashed in my mind.  There is so little time to rest, fuel up, and hydrate before the new challenges will begin hurling at them.  Grief, hurt, loss, defiance, discipline, cultural differences, food issues, etc. etc, etc.  Because all of these new changes could threaten to turn a home upside down, I can not emphasize enough how important it has been for us to create, maintain, and enforce boundaries while simultaneously establishing a loving and nurturing environment.  The two can co-exist happily.  

The boundaries will obviously differ from home to home.  However, it is important to work toward the vision you have for how you want your home to run and operate.  Don't bend the rules or make exceptions if it is only going to cause you to work harder and longer in the long run.  For example, healthy eating is important to us.  Therefore, we did not bend the rules for the new children.  Instead, we are working toward having Sporty accept that vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc. are what's for dinner.  End of story.  Tonight, I watched Sporty inhale a plate full of cauliflower and broccoli.  Three months ago, he would have turned his back to the table and pouted.  It was also important for us to not share our bed or bedroom with any of our children.  Therefore, from the day we arrived home I slept in Sassy's bedroom on the floor next to her bed.  As the weeks progressed, I worked myself out of her room and back into ours.  What began as shrieks of terror has grown into a relatively healthy level of assurance that she is not alone and I will be there to comfort her when she needs me. It took approximately five weeks to work myself out of her room.  A third area that was important to us is listening and obeying.  While Sporty initially tried to test and manipulate the rules I gave him, I see this greatly diminishing and have actually begun to feel as if he realizes we are on the same team.  Instead of him putting up a fight or becoming passive-resistant when told to do something he does not want to do, he is actually starting to comply almost immediately.  We have our moments, but by and large things are starting to level out.  He has realized that if asks dad after mom just gave him a directive, dad will back up mom.  This obviously gets tricky when dad and mom are out of ear shot, but as parents we are learning to check in with each other.  

The advice that was given to us that I would love to pass along is that it is important immediately establish boundaries for whatever is important to you and your family.  Do not feel guilty or that you need to relax some of your rules, because that will probably wind up causing more headache and heartache than if you would have taken the hard and firm.  When a child joins your family, even if there are no children in the home, he or she is joining an already established unit.  Instant gratification rarely yields fruit and as we are learning there is no way to go under, over, or around the family building process...we all simply must plow through it.  

Our hope is that when we come out of the other end, we will be a more cohesive, happy, and assured unit.  By establishing our framework, creating some goals, and sticking to the rules, we are beginning to witness the fruit of our labor.  When the honeymoon ended and we found ourselves in the trenches, we dug in and stayed firm. My advice would be for you to do the same.  Be flexible where you can, realizing that your family is growing and adjusting.  However, do not compromise the rules and boundaries that have established and served you as a family.  

Hebrews 12:11 states, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  In addition Psalm 32:8 says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."  I find it most comforting to know to that while we are in the process of molding and growing our children, our heavenly Father is doing the same for us.  We are never alone and knowing that God will discipline and instruct us as we call on his name brings me much peace.  
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  1. Thanks, I needed this right now. We've been home with our two boys aged 8 & 10 for just under two weeks now. Whew... We're definitely in the trenches but certainly not discouraged. God didn't bring us this far to drop us now. God is good and this is totally worth every minute. Maria

  2. Maria,
    Welcome home! Those first few months are such a blur. I wrote this post after being home 6 months with Sporty (12yo) and Sassy (2yo). It has now been nearly a year and a half and things have come together nicely. We are definitely a family unit! Our boundaries were constantly tested, using various strategies, for almost a year. Then, something must have clicked and Sporty realized that the rules were the rules and breaking them will have consequences. Prayer and perseverance...faith and sweat are what seems to work best in our home. Hang in there and I look forward to watching your family transform!