We have the most wonderful extended family. They have been so sweet and welcoming to our children and treat them like all the bio kids in the clan. I’m so grateful for that.
For these three adopted from foster care, though, it really is not the same. Especially for the older two. Two years after they were placed with us, we still need to be thinking ahead about events and situations to avoid retraumatizing the kids.
- How many people will be there in total?
- How much pressure will be on the kids to behave (a funeral or wedding, for instance, versus a picnic in a park)?
- How many new or seldom-seen people will be there?
- How many hours will we be away from home?
- Which of the kids are best prepared to meet these challenges?
- Who most needs some time with Dad? Who most needs some time with Mom?
This weekend wound up being a crazy marathon. On Thursday, we had one event after another (six in total). On Friday, we had three events, plus my in-laws came to the house to visit and we went to a restaurant with them. Saturday, we had ball practice, plus a family wedding. Sunday brought three church things, plus a family party for a 1-year-old. It was almost enough to traumatize me.
With so much packed into a single weekend, we had to go with “divide and conquer.” My hubby attended some events and I the others, allowing the kids to be with one of us most of the time. Of course, our well-meaning relatives said, “You can bring all the kids, really,” because they think it is all about behavior. Whereas, from our point of view, the behavior is just the symptom; we are trying to integrate them into the family while allowing them to feel safe and secure. We love it when they are calm and cute, of course, but that can’t be part of our criteria! Our criteria is “who can attend this activity (or part of it) and feel loved and safe?”
For now, that means high-stress events (like ones with a lot of new adults) have to be scaled down to manageable proportions for our kids. Yesterday the oldest went to the wedding with Daddy; today the younger two will attend part of the birthday party with me. While our weekend is chaotic, we’ve turned down the pressure enough that theirs seems pretty normal with regular meals, snacks, and sleep. It’s a recipe for success.