Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adoptive Parents: Communication Resources?

I'm looking for recommendations.

In many ways, Meadow and Flint are progressing really well. In other ways, I'm not sure of they are off track, or if their behavior is a normal part of development for kids in their situation.

One of our biggest, most challenging and frustrating obstacles day after day, month after month is basic communication. They have been here 9 months. Meadow is probably 7, quite possibly 8 and Flint is 5.

They say yes when they mean no, and no when they mean yes. They fluctuate back and forth with their answers when asked the same question a couple of times in a row, or on one day then another. This could be about the most simple topics concerning their preferences - "do you like your eggnog?" to something they may have done a moment ago - "did you comb through your hair?" to questions about their history - "do you ever miss Ethiopia?" Really. It can be about anything. Straight, consistent answers are just not there.

Everyone comments that Meadow's English is great - and it is. She speaks clearly. Which makes her inability communicate exactly what she means when asked a direct question difficult to understand.
Flint's English is not very good. We are working to help him with pronunciation and sentence formation.

They are both prone to outright lying and "freezing." Especially if they feel whatsoever threatened, like they may receive a consequence.

Usually, I have no idea if they are telling the truth about their past, or whatever situation we are discussing about the present. Still, to this day, I do not know if Meadow remembers her family or how they were treated in the orphanage, or what went on with the other kids because she will change her responses from day to day.

Many, many people have suggested therapy. Which, from Bobby and my point of view, seems like it would be a complete waste of time and money until they are able to communicate with any level of reliability or consistency or honesty. Maybe I'm wrong on that and a therapist could get them to speak clearly and truthfully. I just don't know....

This definitely, definitely impedes my ability to get close to them, to bond with them, and to help them. What little communication we do have is terribly circular and I never know what is real and what is not.

Has anyone experienced this? Do you have any tips? Books? Suggestions? Links? Resources? Tools? Anything at all? If so, thank you.


Jamey... said...

I have a few different thoughts... it sounds like a delay (albeit a reasonable one) in their receptive language skills. I'd contact your county's early intervention program and find out which of their "arms" works with kids of that age.

As far as the lying goes I would say that given their ages and again probably some emotional/developmental delays due to coming from a rougher start that it's less lying and more "magical thinking" which would also tie into them still being English language learners and be exacerbated by problems with receptive language. You can google "magical thinking versus lying" to see more about that if you're interested.

Anyway...I enjoy your blog and this is the first time that I've commented. :)

HollyMarie said...

Normal. And attachment/security related. I'd just keep on keeping on. Try not to freak out when they do their lying and "freezing" (I know EXACTLY what you are talking about!)

When it comes to their past and Ethiopia, some of it may be foggy and some of it may just be them trying to figure out what answer to give you that will have the best effect on their status in the house. Everything still circles back to security and permanency (even when it is something so ridiculously unimportant... they don't see it that way yet). And this will be true for a long time.

If they feel like YOU want an answer or that they SHOULD provide an answer about ET, and their memory is slightly foggy OR they aren't sure the real answer would be one that would benefit them (again, even if the details to us seem super unimportant), they will make it up. They mix up the answers they think you want to hear with bits of how they really feel about it from time to time to test how it affects their status in the house.

As far as "liking" certain foods one day and then not the next, etc., this too is security/attachment related. Bereket did this for a long time. It drove me bonkers. Sometimes she was absolutely paralyzed from making a decision until Ellie had made hers. And then she would choose something she didn't really want, and then she'd be sad about it. But the next time she still would choose what she didn't want because it was all about being a part of our FAMILY. Then when she chose what she really wanted, she'd be sad that her choice was different from the sister she was trying DESPERATELY to be like.

Seriously, it takes almost forever for our kids to really REALLY know that our acceptance and love for them isn't going to disappear. (even when everyone thinks they are doing SO well!) Until that REALLY sinks in, you will deal with this.

In your shoes, I'd give it another 6 months to a year. Then look back and look to see if there's been some improvement. If there has, you are on the right track. Mostly, I think it is a time and security thing. If there is no improvement, or things have gotten worse, then I would consider counseling. It's not so much their inability to communicate (they know how) but their choice not to, based on their (however skewed) beliefs about status and permanency.

Hang in there mama; the road is long but you'll get there!

Carla said...

We have and still deal with the same issues you are dealing with. It is quite frustrating and I do think most of it is a communication barrier. Even though they can speak English well, doesn't mean they can understand everything we are saying. And they don't understand how or why we handle things the way we do (our culture vs. their culture). This was one of the deciding factors of sending them to school for a couple years to help them adjust to our culture. I'm with you about the therapy issue. We have waited two years and I am seriously thinking about our older adopted child getting some help to deal with her trauma in ET in the near future now that she can communicate better. Because of the culture differences and communication issues, she had a huge misunderstanding of her family in ET (thinking she was living with her parents, not aunt and uncle, this was a tough one until we got it straightened out). The lying issue has been HUGE with our children. I don't know if it's because of the communication barrier and they don't know if they are saying the right thing or not. Again, this has been the biggest challenge for me. The younger child lies to me looking me in the eye, emotionless...just can't read him. Ethiopia's culture could not be any more opposite of our culture in every way, this poses quite the challenge. I felt like we had to train our children from the beginning, like they were newborns. They still don't have the same privileges as our other children because they just can't handle it. I've tried and tried, but have learned to take it really slow and give them what they can handle and what I can handle. I don't have any suggestions on books because I don't know if there are any out there for this particular situation. I've read other books on adopting and attaching, but none of them address these issues. Maybe you or I should write one and help future adoptive parents of Ethiopian children. :)

Courtney said...

no tips...just prayers!

Tisha said...

Thank you for your feedback. I scoured my books and could not find these types of communication/language/lying issues that have been so prevalent here - it's good to know we are not alone. ☺ So much to learn, so much to learn....

Hi Jamey, how nice to meet you. :)

Bonnie said...

Tisha - if you get to the point of needing therapy we had an amazing therapist for Sarah - in 3 months time he helped us so much. And he would absolutely tell you if the kids need more english than they have. Email me if you want his number.

They both absolutely remember ET, the orphanage and depending on when they were orphaned their families. What you are experiencing is that sometimes they are testing out whether or not you are a safe place to share the truth of what happened.

Some of the other stuff is that they are trying to please you and they can't read your expressions. If it is something as simple as do you like eggnog - it might help to say I like eggnog, but grandma doesn't what do you think of it.... then you are showing them that likeing it is optional.

As for lying - try really hard not to give them the opportunity to lie to you. Dont ask a question you don't know the answer to. And change the way you phrase it - Say I saw that you broke the dish, and you need to do xyor z about it. Rather than asking did you break the dish....

Jaime And Drew said...

I have no advice for you....honestly I have no advice for myself. I am holding onto the prayer that time will change things. Today I had to go to Mamo's preschool for the second time and stand with him as he explained to his teacher he stole again. The first time he stole the teachers keys (yes her personal keys) and put them in his bag. This time he stole a toy and put it in his sister's book bag. After I left school I was cleaning his bedroom to find that he had removed all the electric outlet covers and replaced them with pieces of wood. In all of these behaviors the communication is the biggest hurdle. He talks ALL DAY but when it comes to a one on one conversation he freezes. We have spent months trying to talk to him about not steeling, caring for his toys (he breaks every toys he gets), and not touching other people's stuff. The conversations end up with us being frustrated and him acting like he doesn't know what we are talking about. I am at a real loss on what we do...only remain consistent and hope and pray TIME will fix things.

radmama said...

Goodness, have we been there. We initially thought that it was our son's age, then perhaps a delay...we're convinced it's trauma. Again.

Trauma seems to be at the root of so many of the issues we deal with. Our son will typically lie if asked a question. Any question, even about the most mundane things. He will immediately regret any choice he's given (cookies or cake?), and then somehow blame us for his choice.

We just don't ask questions if the answer really matters to us. That probably seems a little crazy, but why ask if you're just gonna be lied to, verbally manipulated, and raise your blood pressure unnecessarily. we just don't ask.

No it doesn't fix anything. Bur I'm not honestly sure some of this stuff can be fixed. These kids' brains are permanently damaged by what they've gone through. How do you change structural damage? A somewhat inadequate parallel would be for someone to ask me to change my handedness. Try it for a day. Everything you write is a mess. You spend a lot of time worrying about how you're going to handle a task with your nonsominant hand. You can't concentrate. From the outside, you look just a little bit crazy.

Our kids are dealing with ten times that. Or more.

Sorry about the length.

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