My wife and I have been fostering a 13 yo girl for almost a year with the goal to adopt her later this summer. She was taken from her biological mother almost 6 years ago and has been in 5-7 foster homes during that time. An issue we are facing now is that she relates and plays well with a neighbor kid who is only 8. When she plays at home she is doing stuff that is typical 4-6 year old play. She does not want to put any effort into things that require work and learning, she just wants to play - but at the same time she wants to have a car and drive around and do teenage (and older) stuff. The therapist we are working with says that we should just let her play since she "missed those things" with all her moving around....but we are not seeing any real growth and drive to grow in her. This is especially frustrating since our 4 older biological girls are all very self-motivated learners, enjoy reading and the like, but our foster daughter has no such interest. She is happy playing with a toy car, petting the dogs, and the like. Any suggestions?
I dont really have suggestions i dont think...but maybe just commiseration. My daughter is 10 (adopted at age 8) and she definitely plays better with kids who are at least two years younger than she is. In fact, she has no problem going down the street to play with a three or four year old child (although will often fight with her own 4 yr old brothers)....i have a friend with a daughter who is about 8 months older, and the difference is startling. When her daughter was over, we were having nice conversations about books and movies, she was able to sit next to me on her laptop while i played on my computer and occasionally would say something truly funny or witty or observant...meanwhile my daughter was upstairs SCREAMING (in play) with the friend's seven yr old brother (just turned) playing some imaginary game i think involving shooting aliens or looking for treasure or something.
She also eats like a three yr old, its amazing. The other day, i served spaghetti (w/ sauce) which took her two hours to eat (dont get me started on her food control issues) and when i was doing laundry was amazed at her shirt. I lined up both 4 yr olds shirts and hers to show her....one boy's shirt had a bit of a stain at the top where he dropped a noodle on himself, the other's shirt had two or three stains....her shirt was *covered* top to bottom, sauce on her shoulders, on the back of the shirt even...sauce *everywhere*....she just rolled her eyes at me.
She was visiting a friend's house, they were having a big party and she felt like she wasnt getting enough attention, so she walked up to her friend and turned her laptop off midgame. At least twice. That is something you'd expect perhaps from a very young child who didnt know how to use words to express what they wanted, not a 10 yr old girl at a friend's house yknow?? I've said that her friend is 10 going on 30 and my daughter is 10 going on 3.
I could go on. It drives me crazy.
Sometimes i feel really sad, too, because i think about how my oldest was at that age...he's very bright and interesting and we'd have all sorts of conversations about current events, history, religion, music, tv, books, whatever....i could talk to him for hours. My daughter just wants to retell the entire plot of an episode of a disney show. Over and over. Its like she can't talk about anything deeper than that. Or she will try to tell jokes, that arent funny ("Get it?? get it??? hahaha!!!" yeah...um, no. ) It makes me feel sad because i know we will never have that kind of relationship...im not sure what kind we WILL have but its like i have to meet her on a very very basic superficial level.
She is diagnosed with ADHD, her therapist and i have talked about her having attachment issues, and i suspect she may have some level of fetal alcohol exposure/damage (which could account for her simple nature, inability to form abstract thought, needing concrete info/one step instructions to be able to perform tasks well, and maybe her learning disabilities.)
Does your daughter have any other behavior issues or concerns?
I'm sorry to say, but patience and acceptance are my suggestions. I say this from the experience of having a 9 year old girl we got at 3.5 from a Russian orphanage. Our 5 year old who has been with us for 2 years is regressing and throwing harmful tantrums equivalent to a 2-3 year old just now, so I see the range of developmental issues. One year is not nearly enough time for much attachment, develpmental catch up, etc. That would be the patience piece. The acceptance piece is to find the ways to love her as is. Let the school deal with any issues of delay and allow her to explore the "baby/young side" of her needs. I used to take mine to a sing-along where there are toys for infants on purpose, I'm sure you've done your research and know the odds of her following the path of "typical" kids raised in one home by one family. It's oh so difficult when you have the experience of raising better equipped kids. I find I'm happiest with her when I don't compare her to others and appreciate her loving gestures and urges to spend time with me.
Hooking up with a group of people with similar experiences can also help. Hearing their stories provides reality checks. You're doing the right thing connecting here and working with a therapist. Best of luck!
Mama to Ru cutie (a. age 3, fall 2006) and foster to adopt wonder-child (arrived a. 3, 2010)
My adopted sister is still like this. She is now 21 but mentally about 13 or 14. She has always been a few years behind, and I think she has now plateaued in maturity. She is functional and social, but she has an IQ that is classed as mildly retarded. You would never know it when you first meet her, but after awhile it becomes apparent. Its hard for her, because she looks 21 so people have higher expectations of her, so that can make life a bit difficult at times.
My advice is to keep trying to teach her, but understand she may grow and mature on her own curve, that may not be typical of the average child. Try not to compare her to your other children. She may never reach that potential as she has a potential of her own.
I completely understand how frustrating it can be when kids regress in play. My adopted daughter is 7, but more like a 2-3 year old in play. Sometimes it is great to watch her play with my four year old. Other times she spends the whole time screaming and hoarding toys.
I do agree that you have to gently nudge your kids toward progress, but you cannot expect them to "catch up." It has really helped us to just accept that our daugher will always be younger developmentally. We don't expect her to be an adult until her mid twenties and hope that we can just keep her on the track of making good choices between now and then...
ETA- also, I wanted to say my daughter does not have serious learning problems. I think that adds another layer to this complicated issue.