• "Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love—difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness - Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well."
  • - St. Therese of Lisieux

Saturday, August 20, 2016

10 Things We Knew We Did Right When We Adopted A Toddler

We had overwhelming support from friends and family when we told them that we were adopting. From praying about it to finally deciding to do it; from the day we walked in the field office of DSWD R4-A to awaiting the call of our social worker for the news that we had been matched. I imagined myself holding an infant boy. We expected to be adopting an infant.

But God had other plans. He gave us a toddler. Teo was 20 months old when we brought him home. And so, we had to adjust to life with a toddler and learn as much as we could on how to parent, well, a toddler.

Of course we got a lot of help from the one who made this all happen - Our Heavenly Father. We couldn't have done these 10 things right if it weren't for His grace and guidance anyway.

1. Adoption Birth. The orphanage from where Teo stayed required us to go there and bond with him for two whole days before we could take Teo home. It was wonderful and heartwarming. We bonded instantly and we got to see how Teo interacted with the other children and staff in the home and learn about his daily routine. Which brings us to number two.

2. We kept his sleeping and eating routines. Routines are very important for toddlers, it gives them a sense of security - and this is what we wanted to give Teo from the very beginning of our lives together. We had to adjust our entire day to accommodate Teo's routine. We kept the same time for naps and bedtime and of course added our own rituals like reading books and cuddling.

3. We took home some of his things. The orphanage sent home some of Teo's favorite clothes and toys. Although I wanted to change him into the clothes we brought for him, time did not permit me to. we had to leave quickly after the despedida at the orphanage because it was time for the children's nap, and Teo's too. So we brought him home in the clothes he was wearing that day. This helped with our goal to provide emotional comfort for him on his first days with us. Familiar things or faces help ease a toddler's anxiety. 

4. I cooked the same food he ate at the orphanage. The adoption birth also gave me a chance to see what food they serve Teo and what he likes to eat.  So for the first week, I cooked only the meals he was familiar with. Then added a couple of new ones each week. We also wanted Teo to feel secure during mealtimes and familiar tastes helped him enjoy family meal time. 

5. We had his 'Life Book' available for him to look at whenever he wanted. Teo would look at his life book a couple of times each day during his first two weeks with us. We keep his life book under the coffee table. He would ask me to sit with him on the sofa to look at his pictures. I would talk about him and his friends at the orphanage and he would point to the photos of his caregivers. We would not want to keep this part of his life hidden. And so his life book will always be under the coffee table. It will be easier to talk about adoption when he is a little older. Meanwhile, it is wonderful to recall and talk to him about the events that lead us to each other.

6. We stayed home during the first two months. We established routines and rituals while building our relationships. Noli and I took turns in feeding (nah! Teo insists he eat by himself), bathing and putting him to sleep. The only times we 'went out' were on Sundays to hear mass and to go to the grocery. Rituals helped us bond. Its our special time with each other. Reading books before bedtime is one of Teo's favorite rituals. It also gives me a chance to tell him that we are his forever family and that he is loved.

7. Kept his toys to a minimum. The toys Teo had during the first two months were all hand me downs. I had kept some wooden toys I used when I taught my Preschool readiness Program and he played with that too. But toys were not really the focus during our playtime; it was cuddling, tickling, laughing, singing, dancing and making funny faces. We had more chances to look into each others' eyes and connect.

8. Brought him to a toy store 3 months after. For fear that he might feel 'entitled'. Ha! I was worried that he would want us to buy every toy that he sees. So when we finally brought him to a toy store it turned out quite the opposite. While we looked around, Teo inspected some of the amazing toy cars on display. When we told him it was time to go, he walked towards me with a smile and held my hand. We bought a bottle of bubbles. I don't regret delaying the toy store trip though. As much as we want to give Teo everything we believe that it is better to point him towards the One who created everything.

9. Worked on attachment. We read and read all there is about attachment and positive parenting and worked on it.  

10. Took him back to the orphanage on his birthday. On the way home from the orphanage, Teo was so happy he kept on hugging me and his lola (grandma) in the car. And he seemed happier than his usual 'happy morning self' the next day. I guess he now understood what I meant by 'we are your forever family'. 

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