Older Child Adoption - Becoming a Family Part 5
Learning to Control Emotions
(Yes, I read all the articles. Yes, I read the books. Yes, I looked up topics on the Internet. But still, I didn't believe it was going to happen to me.)
During our 'troubles,' I tried all of the following: timeouts, removal of privileges, holding and rocking, deep breathing, putting her in her room, massage, taking all toys out of her room, ignoring her, complimenting the correct behavior, point system, behavior chart, regular schedules, clear directions as to my expectations, reducing sensory overload, long transition times, active ignoring, and a few I've forgotten.
We talked about how to control emotions, about using words not body, and about making right choices. I discussed emotions: made emotion faces, told emotion stories i.e. things from my past, and got her to share her emotions. I made sure she had lots of physical outlets. I created "family" stories like 'Henry the Mouse' who visits all kinds of families to learn how to live in a family. We drew pictures of her past and present. We began to see a therapist.
One of the most effective tools was the writing/drawing and strict adherence to "house rules." This was my effort to get control over the most violent and abusive behavior. "No hitting. No kicking. No biting. No spitting. No yelling. No getting out of bed after goodnight hug and kiss." Breaking of these meant instant timeout. Getting her into timeout, and to STAY in timeout, however, took months.
Even during the horrible months, we had fun, she was affectionate, and we laughed a lot. That's what sustained me. Also, I knew from the beginning I was parenting
an extraordinary child: coordinated, curious, intuitive, likeable, adaptable, and extremely (let me repeat, "extremely!") bright.
Five and a half months after she got here, the meltdowns ended. They reached a crescendo, and then just stopped. The three weeks before that last meltdown, were worse than all of the other months combined.
One day, about two weeks after her last meltdown, we were in church and the lay leader asked some of the children, "What have your parents taught you?" Hannah leaned over and whispered, "Mama, you've taught me to control my emotions."
As an addendum . . .. Last night, I asked Hannah, "What if a new mama was about to adopt
a child from Russia...what would tell her she needed to do to be a good mama?" Her immediate response was, "I'd ask if she knew how to help her child to control her emotions."
Note: Since this was written, Hannah's violence and challenging behaviors resumed. She was diagnosed with reactive attachment and post traumatic stress
disorders, has undergone therapy, and is now the wonderful child I always knew she could be!
Upcoming, Part 6 (last part):
A Working Family...Blending the Past, Present, and Future
[Susan Ward, founder of Heritage Communications, maintains Older Child Adoption Online Magazine. This regularly updated website includes articles, personal insights, links, books and more. There are special sections on single parenting, reactive attachment disorder, and "Adopted Just Like Me for Kids." Susan is also mama to Hannah, age 9, adopted at age 6 from Russia.]
Credits: Susan Ward