Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Parenting kids with delays

With adopted children, the oddest insecurities or areas of ignorance can arise without any warning. Parenting through these insecurities and areas of ignorance without making the child feel belittled or misunderstood is crucial to building a relationship with your child.

Today I was on the phone talking to Jessica about a Spanish class for our kids, and when I got off the phone, Joey started asking questions. He didn't stop asking questions or making comments all afternoon even though I explained numerous times about the benefits of learning another language. I also talked about how an auntie or someone else was going to have to teach them Spanish because this Mommy does not know it, etc..

Then through dinner he made comments. When Tim came home from his dinner out, the comments continued. I talked about traveling... Trying to explain again why knowing a different language is the pinnacle of cool. I talked about how it would be fun to be able to say Hola to Mr. Ben at church or talk to the Spanish speaking individuals we know. Still Joey was concerned.

I finally told Tim that Joey must be misunderstanding something.

Tim asked Joey why he was concerned about it, and finally, light dawned..... on me. Joey was concerned that he was going to have to speak Spanish all the time. And that his mommy wouldn't be able to understand him ever again. I think he even thought that God wouldn't be able to understand him if he prayed in Spanish.

I got out my trusty iPad (ok, who am I kidding. It was already out, so I just changed my screen from Pandora to YouTube) and showed Joey some Spanish. We watched a Sesame Street song that explains exactly what I was trying to-- except the song does it with puppets.

Joey went away from his Spanish watching lesson with a joyful step. He completely understands now.

Joey's difficulty with the English language is what caused his confusion. He just didn't pick up on the fact that one could learn Spanish and still speak English. He didn't pick up on the fact that Kim and Abby can speak all/some Spanish and still speak English. And for poor Joey to think he was going to have to go back to being misunderstood... for a five year old child who has only spoken intelligibly for a bit over a year... that must have been terrifying.

I am so glad I took the time to figure out what he was thinking and feeling so we could adjust our verbal planning as needed. Had I brushed him off or told him he was being silly, or told him for heaven's sake! Just stop talking about it!!! he would have gone to bed upset and been ill at ease for who knows how long. He would have been convinced his entire world was about to change at a time in his life where he desperately needs it to remain the same.

I don't know when Joey's language will be good enough to where he doesn't have episodes like this. He didn't learn to talk really until he was already four... And if it actually does take double the age then he could be eight before he fully understands the ins and outs of English.

Any parent of a child who has been delayed emotionally or developmentally for whatever reason has to be aware of things like this. There are potentially so many holes in a delayed child's understanding about so many things. For example, just two or three months ago Joey learned what first, last, and middle meant. He had no idea.

If I were to relate to Joey as I do to one of my nieces or nephews, he would be completely lost. And just because Joey acts like the 'big, strong man' that he desperately wants to be does not mean that in all areas Joey is ready to be independent... it is way fewer areas than the typical five year old, more than likely. While Joey can shower on his own, brush his teeth on his own, and is my go-to helper around the house, he still doesn't understand the most basic English sometimes.

Now Joey is different from Christopher in that he is more confident in life, but Christopher is much more advanced in his English comprehension. Still, Chris doesn't know some things, like nightstand and vanity. Also, Chris doesn't follow clause upon clause very well, which Joey does usually. If I say something is in front of x, by y... Joey is more likely to be able to find it. Maybe, though, that isn't comprehension so much as just being able to find things. Today is the first time I saw Chris systematically search for something that I told him was in a pile of clothes. Joey has no trouble with that.

Yes, both kids have odd insecurities, inabilities, and weird pockets of ignorances, and if I am not continually on watch, I could truly damage my relationship with them.

In fact, I almost irreparably damaged it the other day, just because they didn't understand I was teasing. I will never admit what I said, but they were both in freak out mode over it. I have had to take multiple opportunities since that infamous Sunday to show them with grand facial gestures that I am teasing as I say something completely outrageous. They are getting much better at recognizing a joke just from the unlikelihood of the statement instead of relying on winks and big smiles.

I am so proud of both of them, but when I compare the boys, Joey has had so much more to overcome. He has really done well and I look forward to helping him develop into the young man God planned from eternity past for him to be.


  1. What a good post! :) We have some parrallels in our homes. :)

  2. You are the perfect mother for your sons!

    I feel like I will be filling holes with my Native Alaskan students' learning until the end of time. They are concrete learners by nature of their culture. Most all are 2, 3, 4, and even 5 years behind the "typical" American child benchmarks. I love these children and it is pure joy to be a part of their lives and learning. I have a feeling you feel the same way and more.


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