By Anita Kensinger
After one phone call we went from just two people to an instant family of five. Three boys, ages 11, 9 and 8, needed an immediate home. This was a disruptive adoption and the need was now. After an hour of talking we decided that this was what the Lord must want for us. That same day we made a three-hour drive and became parents. What a scary time for everyone involved. Our boys had one set of parents in the morning and a new mom and dad in the evening. Think of the sense of loss they felt, having no control over anything in their lives, not being able to say goodbye to the other children in their family, their friends or relatives. Leaving a life they had known for five years and moving into an unknown area took its tool. Having to learn a new value system and what behavior was accepted took time. With the help of our adoption agency, Tressler Lutheran Service, caseworkers and counseling, we have worked through many of the problems.
I would like to pass on some things we have learned during these counseling sessions:
BEING JUDGE AND JURY
I found that all of a sudden I was in the middle of three boys and a lot of destructive behavior. Who did what? When something happened no one knew who did it. It must have been the cats! What the therapist suggested now works well for us. All the children sit on chairs and are asked, "Who broke the coffee pot?" They are told that whoever broke the coffeepot must pay for a new one. If no one acknowledges that he broke the coffeepot then all the children have to pay for it. We then leave the room to give the children time to discuss the problem. It doesnít take very many times before they become their own judges. Most times they know who did what and they donít want to take the blame for something they didnít do. No longer are parents the heavy!
In the beginning I was having a hared time being responsible for everything. I work full time, and my husband has his own business. It seemed as though I just could not keep up. One week no one took a shower just because I did not tell them to do so. We have three cats and one week no one changed the litter. Once again the counselor gave us some suggestions, and one did the trick for us. Through working with the counselor she knew our schedules and knew that after watching the 11 p.m. news we went to bed. If any of you are like me, you check things before going to bed. If, for example, the litter had not been changed, I would go up and get the culprit out of bed to change the litter. Imagine how angry the person was who had to get out of bed. The child can either accept responsibility on his time or accept it on yours. It does not take very long for the child to decide it is easier for him to accept responsibility on his own.
Our family is big on choices. We all make choices everyday of our lives. I think that children need to know they are the ones making the choice Ė not mom or dad or peers. Once a choice is made they must understand that they are responsible for that choice. We all know that some choices we make are good, some not so good and some even bad. But children can all learn from making choices. Our teenagers are faced with choices we never had to consider.
When the boys first came they were never going to change their names. After many months, the oldest boy decided since he was starting a new life he wanted a new name. The other two boys followed his lead. The three of them spent many hours going over name books and what those names meant. The caseworker said this was a positive sign in bonding to us. Bonding with older children takes longer, but the rewards are worth it.
Donít be in a big rush to finalize. When adopting older children you must make sure this is where they want to be. If the child is 12 years or older (at least in Pennsylvania) they have the final say. We delayed finalization because our oldest son, then 12, was not quite sure this was where he wanted to be. Once he decided this was "home" things went a lot smoother. Sometimes we tend to forget the childís feelings of "Do I belong here?"
After things settled down to normal we decided what we needed was a girl in the family. Since the boys are originally from the Philippines, we thought we would go with an Asian girl. Two years after the boys came home, our little girl came from Korea. She was 8 years old at the time and could read, write and speak only in Korean.
I must say that it was easier bringing one into the family than bringing three at one time. By the time she joined our family the rules had already been established. She missed out on the original learning period of what works for our family.
We still have our rough times just like everybody else but I, for one, do not regret the move to adopt older children. Older children need love and affection too, and they have so much of their lives to share with you.
Jon is now 15, Michael 13, Vincent 11 and Jennie 10. We think they are pretty special people.