Posted by: ramonamom | April 29, 2008

Differences

In his book, _Blame it on the Brain_, Edward Welch states, “Parenting children who are like you is relatively straightforward because we instinctively understand their strengths and weaknesses.  But children whose strengths and weaknesses are out of the mainstream require more careful observation and creative teaching.”  Since it is unlikely that we would bring home an older child from a different culture who is “like us”, the chances are very good that our adopted children are all going to require careful observation and creative teaching, right?! 

Of our eight adopted children, some are more like us than others, but we learned early on that we would have to be very creative as we began to understand who they were and how to best teach them.   As a homeschooling mom, I was faced with teaching a deaf daughter who did not know English everything she needed to know to survive in our world.  At nine years old, this child barely even knew any Russian, so her language skills were minimal to begin with.  She and her brother had no concept of time (minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, etc), were not familiar with a calendar at all, could not tell time or count money.  Their skills consisted of basic survival and some simple personal hygeine. 

The Chinese daughter who came to us at the age of 14 from a disrupted adoption had apparently never done a single chore in her entire life.  One of the biggest arguments she had been in with her first adoptive mother revolved around putting clean sheets on her bed.  Once she gained enough communication skills and the confidence to talk to us, she confessed that she had not known how to put the sheets on the bed and, rather than admit this to her angry mother, she likewise responded in anger.  On the other hand, this child is extremely intelligent and very much like her dad (my husband), so he relates to her and is better able to teach her than he is some of our other children.   

We soon discovered that our Russian born sons were extremely adept at making due with what small resources they had available to them.  The Russian culture they grew up in was very similar to the one in our own country during the years of the Great Depression.   There were many, many times when I would turn to them when some household item broke and they continually amazed me at the skills they possessed to fix these items, sometimes in very unique ways (and they loved being able to help). 

When parents bring an older adopted child home, it is very important to take some time to strive to understand who they are and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.  It is very easy to assume that “different is wrong“, but as parents of children from other cultures we should examine these differences and carefully, over time, consider them to see if perhaps we are the ones who should change.  Indeed, being willing to change is an absolutely essential trait for parents of older adopted children.  We will need to learn new ways of approaching problems, different ways to teach children, discover unique solutions to challenging situations.  (As an example, almost every resource I found when researching how to teach our newly adopted deaf daughter recommended that we place her in a deaf boarding school.  That was simply not an option we would consider, though, so I forged on ahead and found my own ways of teaching her.) 

There will be areas of differences in our adopted children which we cannot budge on, however.  Our children had no choice but to get used to using decimals rather than commas when doing their math school work.  Even though they were allowed to watch television at all times during the day in Russia (and whatever they chose to watch), they were not able to do this once we brought them home.  Neither were they allowed to pick on younger siblings or drink alcohol on New Year’s Eve – both of which were allowed in Russia.  The process of determining which differences are “wrong” and which are “allowable” can be a time consuming one, but pushing our children to change right away can be detrimental to the parent/child relationship.  As in all areas, we should pray for God to give us the necessary wisdom in these areas and the patience to bear with the differences until we can learn how to best teach them to change. 

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Col. 3:21

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