I’ve written before a few times about the process of adjusting in adoption, especially with older child adoption. I’ve talked about the idea of the turn key: one key that can turn the lock and you step right into a functioning enterprise (business, relationship, whatever). As I stated before, adoption is NOTHING like that. Ever.
Yet, we, or I, fantasize about it all the time.
I wish I had a turn-key to adoption adjustment, really, really I do.
But I’m starting to get used to the idea that, I don’t, no one does.
As you embark on the process of an adoption, any adoption at all, those fantasies are rampant.
Sure they get a little dull and bogged down by the cumbersome invasive excruciatingly slow process of adoption: homestudies, background checks, financial and medical letters, references, duplicated certified stamped filed and stamped some more.
But even so, once you are through all that and you actually have the new family member, the child, home in the house…that’s when it all just gels, right? You’ve turned the key and stepped across the threshold to a brand new life!
Well, sort of anyhow.
This process of adjusting once you have a new child is what has me still and continually
obsessing thoughtfully pondering about what makes it work and what doesn’t.
But this post, this series of posts, is about what has worked – for us. I couldn’t begin to expand it further than our own wacky family; that would be wrong. Because this is all only my own two pence. But if I find something that consistently makes a difference, I want to throw it out there in case it might help smooth any path for anyone else. Those stubbed toes on this sometimes-rocky path of adoption adjustment – they hurt!
So, with that long prelude, we come to this post.
This post is about an important key to the adjustment in our house: schedules.
Especially during the holiday season, schedules are critical.
They are a turn-key to unlocking a feeling of control and safety during a very uncertain time in a new family member’s life.
They are, and I can’t say this quite strongly enough, a safety net.
We have a big calendar on our fridge; one of the ones with large empty squares, plenty of room to write appointments, games, events. Yes, it gets cluttered, especially as the month goes on. Big family… Many in the house largely ignore it. It is vital to me, to juggle everything. The only person who looks at it as closely as me (actually, she examines it daily) is Marta. It is a critical tool for her to keep her clued in to the daily routines. Those predictable events are a safety net for her. They provide a feeling of control and safety in a world that is not fully understood yet – not culturally, not with language, not with nuance or tradition.
But this week, even that big monthly calendar isn’t cutting it. This weekend was rocky; nervous anticipation of the holiday this week brought up bad behaviors and acting out. Finally Sunday afternoon we were able to have a conversation about the nervousness of this week ahead: house-guests, shifting schedules, no school.
I decided to make Marta her own daily schedule, and asked her to help me. We sat down with scratch paper (this doesn’t have to be a fancy thing) and we blocked out each day, so she could see what would happen. This helps her to anticipate the things that are the same, and to prepare for the shifts and things that are different. It provides something for her to hold onto, again, it is a safety net.
Imagine, if you will, how it might be if you didn’t really know how things were going to work the next week, just that it would be quite different from the routine you’ve begun to know and understand….how would that make you feel? Now add on a lack of familiarity with the culture or the holiday traditions and the lack of language to learn it by talking about it. Now add on a background of trauma and hurt,which brings up reactions that surprise everyone, even yourself, and see if you don’t get a bit stressed out. I know I would. I am stressed out a bit in anticipation of it and I am the Mom of the house!
So, we made the daily schedules. One for each day this week. We taped them up the the wall in the center hub of the house, the kitchen.
She knows roughly (Not minute to minute, that would be TOO tight of a schedule and then you would have fallout from that schedule not being met…this is a blocked out schedule) what is happening when this whole week. She has already referred to it many times.
And I am hoping.
I am hoping this will help my daughter cope.
I am hoping this will help my daughter move out of stress response into a softer place.
I am hoping this will help my daughter relax just enough to really be able to BE with the family and enjoy a bit more of this holiday.
I’m not expecting miracles.
But I’m hoping for another little babystep forward.
I’m hoping to turn the key and open the door to family and home, a new family and new home, just a little wider.
So this is our turn-key of this week: schedules.
Use this tool, this key, to help a hypervigilant child be able to see what is ahead and anticipate it. Because that is empowering, that knowledge means safety.
And giving any child a sense of safety is one of the best keys in your pocket.