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Why it Feels Like My Life has Just Begun at 51
When you are an adoptive parent, you have many concerns to juggle, including language barriers, cultural identity issues, attachment and more. You may have so much on your mind, it can be easy to forget that even the day-to-day trials of being a parent can be difficult, adoptive parents or not.
This is especially true if you have a preschool age child. Just learning about the world and filled with boundless energy, they are at a crucial turning point in life. Your parenting MATTERS!
Don’t fret, though. What you’re experiencing is what every parent goes through, adoptive or not. Parenting preschoolers can be tough, but keeping these 7 concepts in mind can help:
Start to Develop Routines – When your children are babies and toddlers, every day is an adventure. You can’t predict where the day will bring you because life with very young children just doesn’t work that way. As they get into their preschooler years, however, developing a predictable routine is important. Helping them learn consistency in schedules, behavior, and what is expected of them now will help them excel once school begins.
2. Expect More From Them – Preschoolers are capable of being more independent than we realize, and encouraging them to be is an essential part of helping them be more self-sufficient. Resist doing things for them that they can do themselves, and encourage self-sufficiency with carefully worded questions. “Do you want my help or can you do it yourself?” is like an invitation. Kids love proving that they can do things on their own!
3. Give Them Regular (But Easy) Chores – Chores are not a punishment, nor should they be used as one, and they are not a relic of yesteryear either! They are an essential part of teaching your children the joy of accomplishment, how to cope with responsibility, and reinforcing the idea that they are part of the family unit, which is especially important in adoptive families. Just remember, avoid busywork (kids know when you are just wasting their time) and make sure their chore is something they can manage.
4. Praise Beats Punishment – Study after study after study backs this up. Choose to praise good behaviors more than you punish bad behaviors, and emphasize the good over the bad. This reinforces the behaviors that are most important to you. Plus, children tend to return to behaviors that have previously gotten them attention, no matter if that attention was good or bad. That means when you emphasize the good, you build the good.
5. But Be Sparing With Rewards – Snacks, stickers, toys, etc. It’s not unusual to reward your child for good behavior, but be judicious when choosing how and when to reward them. If they are behaving well or performing a chore for the sake of a reward, you are not delivering the lesson you should be delivering. Save the rewards for something truly special.
6. Don’t Fix Everything They Do – If you task your child with doing something – putting their clothes away or making their bed, for instance – don’t go back and “fix” what they’ve done. That can discourage them from doing things on their own. Instead, allow them to improve what they do at their own pace. The best learning is hands-on learning.
7. Prevent Separation Meltdowns – Separation can be difficult for any child, often more so for adopted children. This is an issue you won’t be able to avoid when it comes time for your child to attend preschool (and later full-time school), but you can help alleviate it with a few simple measures. First, get your child used to “transitions.” Many kids have difficulty with having to suddenly stop playing because it’s time to be at the dinner table, for example. Ease those transitions by reminding them 20 minutes ahead of time that a change is coming. When school days begin and it comes time to be apart from your child, give them something tangible to help them keep you in a mind. A photo or small belonging will often do the trick. These simple measures can stop a separation meltdown before they happen.
Parenting is not easy, and that’s undoubtedly the case for parents coping with the issues unique to adoptive families, but with an eye on your child’s well-being and a thought for the future, there are no obstacles you can’t overcome.
These tips only just scratch the surface, of course, but hopefully they’ll help you build a basic philosophy that will aid you as your child grows into a person all their own. Happy parenting!
Part One of Two
A realistic look at International Adoption
Practical tips for new adoptive parents
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