Think about those children we have chosen to nurture and unconditionally care for through Foster Care and Adoption.They have experienced loss and trauma in ways we will never know. I think about both of my sons whom I adopted as teenagers and who survived a lifetime of neglect and abuse with an average of 40 or more placements before coming to my home. It was through them that I learned one of the things our children need most, time to just “cocoon”.
We all know the drill. A child is placed in our home and we immediately jump to attention. Enroll and start school, schedule and follow through with a primary doctor and dentist. Not to mention all the therapies needed to meet the needs of children who have had such a rough start and time in life. We get it done often the first day or two the child comes into our home. To fail at quick follow through would be to have the system frown on our ability to care for our children and hold us liable. These items argumentatively must be done. But is it possible to provide all this and time for adjustment and calming too ?
What I have learned through my children is that they need more than just the check boxes designed by the system. Life for them has been chaotic full of constant deprivation.Fight or Flight rules their life. When my first son came to my home from a disrupted adoption, there was a delay is starting school as his records were not transferred from the other state. I took off work and we spent the days (and nights) talking, making his bedroom his own and watching old TV series as a family. Having had his food locked up for a long time we purchased a big rubber box and decorated it, then shopped to fill it with everything he felt he wanted. My son slept with that box in his bed for over 4 months! I took time to really find out the needs he could express, guessing at the rest. Even though he was 12, he was still that 6 year old little boy who was afraid of that dark ( who I discovered was locked in his room for hours on end with no lights) When his school records came after two weeks, emotionally he was much more prepared to start a new middle school than he would have been if it had happened the day after he arrived.
My oldest son came to me at age 17 after spending his entire life in foster care. The year before asking me to adopt him and coming to live with me was a tumultuous year for him. Four different highs school and a publicized adoption disruption from another state had done a number on his self esteem and he was wounded. He needed to get off his rollercoaster. He was so busy trying to prove himself he struggled to even know who he was anymore.My heart broke as I watched him try to attend the local High School with his siblings. Every morning was a struggle of arguing, anxiety and nerves. Next we tried a homebound program, but he was over it all. As a parent it was easy to get caught up in my own reflection of his not going to school. I had to self talk and get to the point I accepted it wasn’t a reflection of my failure as a parent, but rather a better understanding of his needs.
So my son began his “Cocooning”. His room became his safe sanctuary and he loved being in there, watching Anime and playing games for hours. Food in my home is unrestricted so he could sleep and eat at his own discretion. Family time with games and movies were his choice to participate, and although we always asked him,we never forced him or made him feel obligated. As time went by I watched his brain begin to settle, he came out for longer periods and actually completed games with us. In the beginning he would never join our family discussions about life events, politics, and social injustice. Now he initiates these discussions and presents solid arguments. He is happy, he laughs and smiles more than ever. He graduated High school this year, from a school that allowed him to attend afternoons and still have a job. In three years he has done it all his way, but more so when he is feeling overwhelmed and stressed, he comes home, goes to his room and cocoons for a while. I don’t worry because I understand the other side of coming out of a cocoon is a beautiful and fulfilling life.
What I wonder is how can we allow the children coming into our homes the time and place to “cocoon”?
Connie Going is a certified Adoption Expert and a nationally renowned advocate, speaker and educator. She is also CEO and co-founder of The Adoption Advocacy Center, a non-profit agency that supports and educates adoptive families, waiting children and birth families. Learn more Connie at ConnieGoing.com