One of the things I’ve noticed fondly about The Crossing recently is the growing number of members building their families through adoption. I love this, not only because I’m working on an adoption myself, but also because it makes our church a great community for all kinds of families, just like the family of God is intended to be.
While adoption is a great way to add to a family, it can be a stressful time for kiddos and for moms and dads. One of the big “firsts” for adoptive mamas and dads is the first time their child (or children) go to Crossing Kids. Yes, this is a big deal for biological babes as well, but this transition looks a little different when the little bundle of joy you bring home is a little older or is from a country other than the US.
I have learned so much on my journey to becoming an adoptive mom. As volunteers in our church and an integral part of our Crossing Kids ministry, I know many of you are wondering how you can help make the transition as helpful as possible. There are lots of experts, books, videos, and resources available with many great tips. I’ll try to simplify a few things here, mostly taken from empoweredtoconnect.org, my favorite resource for adoption transition assistance.
First and foremost, talk to the parents of the child. Mom and Dad told you they just added this child–great! Build on this. How is this child doing at home? Is there anything we need to know? How are things going? The transition to Crossing Kids for Kate or Adam will be best if Crossing Kids and Mom and Dad are all one team. Things to consider when talking to Mom and Dad are:
**When do we need to call you out of service?
One of the top tips for adoption transition is to not let a child “cry it out.” Many times in our classrooms we give our kids five or ten (or more) minutes to adjust to the classroom. This is not usually a good option for kids from hard places, especially in the beginning. Crying it out can actually put them into a panic state. Talk to Mom or Dad first to confirm, but if Kate or Adam seems stressed on drop off, invite Mom or Dad to come hang out. Better yet, we’ve had some success with moms and dads volunteering for the first season their child is in Crossing Kids. Have them come get an application from the front desk. Kids from hard places are learning the concept that Mom and Dad will always come back. It’s not something they know naturally, so it’s always good to give them some time to figure this out by allowing Mom and Dad to stay with them if need be. If Mom or Dad do go to service and the child starts to get hysterical, do not assume you can calm them. Come get a Crossing Kids staff member and we’ll get Mom or Dad. It may take months for our kids from hard places to get used to the classroom. Don’t take it personally and don’t try to be a hero. It may remind them of the hard place they came from. In reality, a classroom can bear a resemblance to an orphanage if you’re a little person. Love the kid, love the parents, and listen to Mom and Dad if they say to call immediately.
**How do you discipline your child?
Many (but not all) adoptive families choose not to do time out as a form of discipline. When a child is learning to trust Mom and Dad and figuring out what it means to be part of a family, it can be hurtful to the child if they feel they are being intentionally separated from the family through time out. This can also be the case in our classrooms. Instead, many families choose to do “time ins” where one adult stays with the child while the sit and think about the action. Giving a child special attention can help them stop the “acting out” behavior and also gives them time to adjust without feeling alienated. Regardless of what discipline is given at home, it’s important we keep a consistent message in Crossing Kids. This will help children (and moms and dads) feel like we are all a part of a team. After all, we’re all a part of God’s family. So ask what Mom and Dad are doing at home. This is a good rule of thumb for all our kids.
**What kinds of behaviors should I look out for?
Most likely, moms and dads know of specific behavior triggers that might be sticking points for their kids. Many behaviors we see as acting out are coping behaviors they learned to survive. We should never demean or belittle any child through discipline. With kids from hard places, this is especially true. So, a great way to discipline is through the “re do” method. This is a great one for all kids because it gives them a chance to have their bodies (or mouths) re-learn how to do something correctly. For instance, if a child throws a toy across the room in anger, you can go to the child, get on their level (bend down) and say, “Kate, please try that again with respect. Put the train in the bucket instead of throwing it, please.” When Kate does her re-do (and it may take some prompting), be sure to give Kate some praise and say, “I knew you could do it correctly! Way to go on being kind and showing respect!” This will teach her to use correct behaviors while also giving their body the feel of what the behavior feels like.
The Crossing should be a place new moms and dads of all types feel comfortable and excited to drop off their children. In order to do that, we’ve got to create a culture of teamwork, forgiveness, and love as we work together to develop trust and learn about Jesus.
You can go to http://empoweredtoconnect.org/resources/ for more information on how to help adoptive families through their transition.
And if all this talk of adoption has gotten you thinking about adoption yourself, stop me any Sunday morning. You can also mark your calendar for the November 4 Orphan Sunday service at 6:30 p.m., where you’ll learn more about adoption and meet other parents and families interested in adoption or those who’ve adopted themselves. Thanks for being a part of a great team in Crossing Kids. And thanks for providing an environment where adoptive families feel comfortable.