Thursday, June 14, 2012

We Will Not Cocoon, But...

Our family will not exactly be cocooning after Big Sister's arrival next week, but we will be altering and limiting our interactions and our routine to facilitate her assimilation into our family.  "What is cocooning", you ask?  Simply put, cocooning is when a family chooses (in this instance upon the arrival of the newly adopted child/children) to more or less close off from unnecessary interactions with the outside world and focus inward on the family unit.  A lot of families find this cocooning period extremely beneficial, as it helps to build the confidence and assurance of everyone, individually and collectively, during an otherwise crazy transition period.  Given the nature and personalities of each member of our particular family, we will not be closing off I fear that would lead to increased tension in our home, to put it mildly.  However, we will be taking a step back, taking things one day at a time, and playing our routine by ear.  There are many too many unknowns at this point to know exactly what the next few months will look like, but Big Sister's assimilation and the healthy regrouping of all members of our family will be our number one priority.  

The initial weeks and months following an adoption can be a little different than the time immediately following a birth.  Yes, there are similarities:  everyone is excited and wants to welcome the newest member(s) and there are transitions for everyone in the family; however, there is a lot about the transition of an adopted child, especially a child that has spent a significant amount of time in an orphanage, that is completely unlike that of a child welcomed home shortly after birth.  With that in mind, it is our job to make sure our immediate environment is as peaceful and welcoming as possible.  Everything will be so new to Big Sister: a new mom and dad, new siblings, a new home, new smells, new tastes, new language, new, new, new.  With that in mind, too many comings and goings, too many new faces, too much of anything new or unknown could cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.  

With that being said, we are not stay-at-home-kinda-people, and God already knows this about us.  Because we completely trust God's judgment and provisions in bringing our family together, we know that our daughter has been perfectly and wonderfully placed in our crazy family.  Even still, there is an adjustment period for all of us.  Our simple and flexible plan at this point is to  continue with our normal routine as much as possible, while understanding that we may need to make changes and adjustments day-by-day, week-by-week, and month-by-month.  Lots of observing, lots of flexibility, lots of compassion, loads of prayer, and firm boundaries.   

Below our some of our family's general guidelines that we plan to use during our transition period:

  1. Everything comes from mom and dad.  In other words, mom and dad meet all needs.  Why?  When a child does not have a family and lives in poverty, they may tend to respond/show preference toward anyone who gives them 'things".  This complicates the transition and attachment process and creates unnecessary stress.  The role of mom and dad is not gift-giver, but unconditional love-giver.  
  2. If it doesn't have to happen today, it might not.  This falls under limiting unnecessary comings and goings.  My goal during our first months home is to establish the norms of our home and the norms of our familial relations.  Everything else may have to get put on hold.  
  3. Establish boundaries and house rules right away.  In my earlier post on establishing boundaries, I discussed this in more detail.  In short, we will not bend or break our house rules to accommodate Big Sister.  Rather, we will assimilate her into our established house rules.  This is not a free-for-all, but an extremely difficult time requiring hard word and consistency by mom and dad.  
  4. Get rest.  I stink in this category.  Because I am a night person, regardless of how tired I feel each morning, my energy spikes at night.  This tricks me into believing I am not exhausted, but I am not-to-so-kindly reminded each morning how fatigued I really am.  In order to remain calm and level-headed, adequate rest is so important.  Caffeine only exasperates my anxiety, so while that may be quick pick-me-up, it is not the long-term answer. 
  5. Connect with spouse, if applicable.  I'll admit it.  My husband and I dropped the ball in this category last year.  We were so busy running a mile a minute with the craziness of our newly-doubled family size and other changes in our family that we forgot to connect with each other.  This led to all sorts of stress and communication breakdowns and resulted in both of us feeling unappreciated.  Our fix was to have a weekly date night, every week this summer.  Can we afford this?  Not really financially, but a greater cost would be jeopardizing the parental unit in our family.  It has been refreshing to reconnect with my spouse outside of our role as parents.  Who are you again?  Oh, I remember! 
  6. Keep it simple.  Big Sister is coming from a history of poverty and oppression.  We live in a world of excess.  The two could not be more opposite from each other.  Our society likes to teach us that we need to spend money and go over the top to celebrate such things like the arrival of a child.  However, our rule is to keep it simple.  Yes, we want to celebrate and appreciate Big Sister as a unique child of God....but not with material possessions.  We want to avoid sensory overload and over-stimulation (in all of our children to be sure) and therefore will keep our environment and surroundings as simple as possible.  
  7. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression.  Here is the biggie.  Our child (your children) will only enter our family once for the first time. This is the only time we will get to convey who we are, what we stand for, what we value, how we use our time, what is important to us, etc.  If we were to lavish our child with gifts initially and then suddenly stop doing that, could you see how the child may get confused? If we were to allow chocolate cake and ice cream every day for the first month home and then tell them we do not allow junk food, do you see how that could be confusing?  If we were to allow Big Sister to stay up until 11:00 pm every night initially and then suddenly tell her bedtime is 9:30, do you think she may feel jipped?  Big Sister will be trying to figure out what our expectations are of her during this time.  If we are not consistent, we are not helping, but rather hindering her transition.  
In short, our guideline is that for all things, big and small, we need to spend the first months home establishing who we are individually and as family, what our rules are, and how we operate.  This establishes consistency for Big Sister and with consistency comes confidence in  her new home and environment.  THEN, once these are established we (the parents) can decide which rules to relax and when.  However, I do not believe this would work as well the other way around, i.e. relaxing the rules and then trying to firm them up.  

Finally, we ask that you extend us some grace in the weeks and months ahead.  This transition is much harder than it may look to the outside world.  We are doing our very best to keep life as normal as possible for every member in our home, but please keep in mind "normal" people do not add five children in five years to their home.  We appreciate the tremendous amount of love and support shown to us by our family and friends and look forward to introducing Big Sister to our wonderful village in the weeks and months ahead! 

God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.  
-Psalm 68:6
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