A Good Reminder (about kids from hard places)

Last week, we surprised the kids with a trip to Disneyworld. They had two days off from school for winter break, but because we weren't planning on going anywhere and we only decided on the Disney trip about a month ahead of time...we decided not to tell them. So, on a Thursday evening after school, they were at their nana's house, planning to spend the night there...and we showed up with a packed van to pick them up and leave town. They were stunned and it took them a while to grasp what was happening...but then we were pumped and headed to Orlando. The trip was terrific and much needed. We were all feeling pretty fried. We needed some family time, time to just laugh, hang out together...time without homework, sports, chores...all the yuck that can get in the way of enjoying each other.

But to back track a bit, for our first few days at Disney, Caleb had a rough time. I wrote a post a few weeks ago as we hit his two year adoption anniversary. In the post I spoke of how well he was doing...and he is...truly a transformed child. But as I was reflecting, I wanted to be sure what I was saying was perceived correctly. I truly believe he is different, he has been healed. That being said though, I also know that we will face rough patches here and there forever...and our recent vacation was a perfect example of that.

He was very "off" for our first few days in the new place. He was extremely quiet, skittish...and almost shut down. In all the reading I've done, most authors would agree that the majority of adopted kids have issues with transitions...any kind - be it simple or a major life change. These kids have triggers...some easily identified and some, not so much so...triggers that send them back into their old coping strategies...many times even if the kids have been in a family for quite some time. We spoke with a friend of my husband's that same week, and they had recently moved to a new house and their nine year old internationally adopted daughter was having a major meltdown in relation to the move - and she had been with them for years. There are a number of coping strategies, but most can be put into two categories...either revving up or shutting down. Caleb has always shut down...and we had moments on our trip where we could see his eyes go vacant - back to that very scared place...and he would definitely shut down...either trying to go to sleep or burying his head to get away. It was just a reminder, both good and bad, that there are things we will always be dealing with.

So, how did we handle it? By making every attempt to re-engage him when he did turn away. There are many ways to do this and it depends on the child...for him it is feeding him a snack, not just handing him a cereal bar, but really engaging in back and forth, forcing eye contact as he ate. Another thing that works for him, is physical touch...tickling, wrestling...drawing him back out of that "safe" place inside himself and into family life. It took a few days, but by the end of the trip he was almost back to himself...happy, comfortable and ready to explore this magical place called Walt Disney World.

It was a great trip and we made a lot of new, wonderful memories. It was also a good reminder, for us to be attentive as parents, realizing that there may be some extra things along the way that we need to look out for in this child who had a very hard start in life.

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