Adoption stories – to tell or not to tell

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re finally getting into the school year. Holidays were great, spent lots of time with DH’s family. Kids loved it since they enjoy being with their cousins. Matan went to his regular daycare (not special ed) for a full day while pre-school was out. He seems to be doing well there. A few glitches in the beginning, but he already has friends there who want to meet him for playdates, if only I can find the time. I found a lovely fifth grader who takes him from taxi into daycare on the two days I’m in the office. She’s super-excited to have her first job, and her mother is usually around for backup if necessary.

Karen is adapting to increased homework demands and the added responsibility of being in 3rd grade. She still refuses to read a book, but occasionally watches movies in English and reads the Hebrew subtitles. Tennis 2x a week started a few weeks ago, but Judo 2x a week will only begin next week. Then we’ll see if her afterschool activities are too much to manage along with her homework and trying to fit in playdates whenever possible. She’s incredibly independant, and loves going to the grocery store for me whenever possible…unless she’s got the iPad.

Both children see our adoption social worker who has known us since we first came home with Karen. Karen’s working on an adoption story book, using photos and text. I gave her piles of photos to work with, but otherwise, she won’t tell me a thing about the project. Ruti, the social worker, is also trying to help Matan understand his adoption story. I get a lot of pushback when people discover that we tell our children their adoption story at a young age. But the overwhelming evidence indicates that children who understand at least the basics of their adoption story tend to have an easier time with the reality of adoption as they get older. The worst time for a child to discover he/she is adopted is during their teen years. They often feel they’ve been lied to their whole life if they find out once they are older.

While Karen has always been interested in her adoption story, and often asks me to tell her the story at bedtime, Matan avoids any reference to adoption. This means he gets some of it, which makes me happy since we are always interested in his cognitive abilities and whether his difficulty speaking also affects his ability to understand. When Ruti began talking to him about being adopted, he denied and avoided. She then asked me to attend the next session with some photos from his adoption to make it more real for him. He’s seen all the photos, and I’ve tried talking to him about it in a positive way, but he’s always avoided it. With Ruti, she was able to redirect him back to the story I was telling him. She also guided me in telling the story in a way that made it easier for him to grasp.

Next week we start one-on-one meetings with the staff at Matan’s special education class. I’ve already received positive feedback from Ruti and some of his clinicians at pre-school that he seems to have made some pretty big steps forward over the summer break. Ruti feels he may be on the cusp of a breakout in terms of maturity/development. I’m not sure how much of it is the Ritalin, which I only give him on school days, and at half the lowest dosage available.

While Karen seems to be doing well in school, she has increased anxiety and panic attacks. She always had anxiety around dogs and other animals, but this week we had our first full blown panic attack when she thought she saw a huge spider. Her fear of dogs is improving with the work she’s been doing in animal therapy, but now she’s expanded her fears to include bugs of all types. She takes the stairs rather than get in an elevator where she saw a spider earlier that day.

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