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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
That is, not a baby or toddler. I'm most interested in international adoption, but I'd be curious to hear about how your family adjusted, etc. with domestic adoption as well.

I look through adoption photolistings sometimes (did any of you do this? I find it slightly creepy, but I can't stop looking!), and I often find myself really drawn to older kids. I don't know dh would react, though!

Thanks, mamas!
 

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I'm not sure what kind of info you're looking for.

DS was born in Ethiopia, and joined us a year ago, shortly before his 5th birthday. I can tell you that there is a HUGE need for homes for older children, especially in Ethiopia. And in international adoption, things are always changing. When we decided to adopt DS a year and a half ago, he was 4.5, and was a waiting child. These days, some Ethiopian adoption programs have a waiting list for parents who would like to adopt a child under the age of 7. Children younger than 7 are referred families almost immediately, while older children wait a long time for families.

As for adjustment, I'm going to be honest- it was hard. It was really hard. DS did have some attachment issues. I could be totally off base here, but I believe that many of our adjustment issues had to do with DS's age at placement. I've never adopted a baby, so I'm not sure how different of an experience that is. But adopting a 5 year old was vastly different experience for me than giving birth to my three bio children. Rather than having time to get to know DS, as I did with my bio children, it felt like we were thrust into a new family situation with a ready-made child. I didn't know this kid- I didn't know his favorite food, or what it means when he smiles a certain way, or why he was shy around certain people and not around others. It was similar to falling in love with my DH- I had to get to know DS first, and figure out what made him tick, before I felt that I knew him well. So for me, it was nowhere close to 'love at first sight' with DS. And DS didn't love us or attach to us immediately, either.

The language barrier was definitely a contributing factor to some of our adjustment difficulties. Think about how hard it would be to communicate with a child who doesn't speak the same language. Although DS did pick up English pretty quickly, it's something he's still working on. He was able to master the basics pretty quickly (I'm hungry, I have to use the bathroom, etc.). But he still has trouble finding words to describe his feelings (I'm feeling sad because...). Another challenge for me was the lack of physical contact. I didn't get to parent DS when he was a baby, so I missed out on providing him all of the cuddles and holding that I gave my other kids. Yes, you can cuddle and carry a 5yo, but it's different. I don't know if it's personality, environment, attachment issues, or what, but my adopted DS does not seek out physical closeness at all. Even after being with us for a year, he'll never choose to sit on my lap, give me a hug, or climb into my bed in the morning to snuggle with me. He will now accept hugs and other displays of affection- but it just never even enters into his mind to offer those things or seek them out. He generally doesn't come to me for comfort (I got hurt!), although he does come to me for justice (my brother took my toy!). I had to make a conscious decision to seek out that physical closeness, otherwise it just wouldn't have happened.

Going in, I knew it was going to be hard, but I guess I didn't realize how hard. I didn't realize how much it would affect me to live with a child who didn't love me. I knew that he would reject my affection at first, that we would have to live together for awhile before we felt bonded to each other. But I didn't realize how hard it would be to do that month after month after month.

Surprisingly, DS bonded/attached to his siblings much faster than to me or DH. He had built-in playmates, which really helped. Our kids are closely spaced- our four children were born in a space of 3.5 years. Sibling dynamics were pretty interesting for awhile when DS first arrived. We had the regular fights and squabbles, but it didn't take long for the kids to get their bearings.

Now, with all of that said, I don't regret our decision to adopt DS. I love him, and it's obvious that he loves us as well. I'm not sure when I fell in love with him, but it was somewhere between 8 and 12 months postplacement. I did have to work at it, but we're there. And despite our rocky beginning, things are really good now. I never know what to say these days when people ask me how things are going with DS, because I don't have much to report. Things are just normal. We're just a regular family, living our lives each day.

If you're considering adopting an older child, I'd suggest doing some serious research on the subject. I read tons of books and websites, so I had at least some idea what I was getting myself into. And it was a huge comfort to me, after reading through those books, to know that my feelings were normal. It was okay if I didn't feel an instant bond to DS, it was normal to feel frustrated that I couldn't communicate with DS, it was even normal to feel like adopting him was the worst mistake I ever made. And, if the experiences of others were any indication, we were going to make it through to the other side. It was possible to surmount the challenges we were faced with, and come out the other side as a happy, healthy, well-adjusted family.

I know that some people have a much easier transition than we did, and others deal with much more serious issues (such as true RAD). But I'm glad we were prepared for the possibilities, and I'm even happier that we made it through that rough first year, to a place where we're just a normal happy family again
 

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My parents adopted 7 and 8 year old sisters from Russia about 7 years ago. I was in college at the time, and my brother was almost finished with highschool.

Honestly, it has been challenging for our entire family. Older children have already (sadly) been through a lot in so many cases. The older sister especially has major anger issues that she directs at my mom. It has been really hard on my mom, as she really tries so hard and my sister can be very cruel to her.

I personally was kind of thrown for a loop when the girls first joined our family because I kind of thought they would be really excited and grateful to have a family and a house and nice possessions, etc. Actually, one of the first gripes they had was that they had to share a room! (We're a middle class famly by US standards.) The younger one went through a phase where she would get angry and try to leave--she'd actually go out the door and start heading down the street. It was scary.

On the flip side, it has been a real joy to have a larger family, and specifically, to have these girls as sisters. They have both excelled in school, the younger sister is a great athlete and very outgoing, and the older sister is very compassionate toward elderly people. When we think of what their future might have held in Russia . . . it was pretty bleak. Especially since they are not white, and there is a lot of racism in Russia. They would have had to leave the orphanage around age 15, and the older sister is now 16.

My advice would be to talk to as many parents of older adopted kids as possible. Be really honest about your motivations what you can handle. Can you handle a child with an attachment disorder or other mental health issues? Can you handle the frustrations of a language barrier? Learning disabilities? Medical problems are also common to these kids due to neglect and malnutrition, as well as maternal drug and alcohol use. Are you doing this because you have a savior complex and you think your love is so powerful that all other challenges will just melt away? Is your dh 100% on board?

To be completely frank, after having gone through this as a sibling, I'm not sure that I would ever adopt an older child. If I did, I would not do so when I had other children at home because I think these kids sometimes require so much special attention. *That is not to say that it hasn't worked out differently for other people! My parents actually know a family who adopted two kids from the same orphanage, although the kids they adopted were a bit younger (around 1 and 3 I believe), and they had such a positive experience that they went back and adopted two more.

Best wishes with your decision. I think it's very noble and wonderful of you to consider rescuing an older child!
 

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Our dd was born in Ethiopia and came to us 6 months ago, at the age of 11. She's now 12.

It has been both great and terrible. I knew going into this that she would most likely be emotionally immature for her chronological age. I did not know how much this would irritate and frustrate me. I think that has been my biggest challenge. She behaves much more like a 7-9 year old, and honestly it really bugs me to watch this girl who is every bit as tall as I am behave that way. I am having an easier time of it now that I have figured out that, when I need to discipline her, I need to imagine how I would discipline a seven year old before I proceed. Seems like that would be obvious, but it took me almost 6 months to figure that out.

Another challenge has been her bottomless pit of need for attention. She is so extremely jealous of my younger kids that it's nearly impossible to do anything that's for them and them alone. Desta sprints into the situation to claim what she feels is her rightful share of attention and doesn't seem to understand that she is not always the center of attention. She is extremely attention-seeking and behaves wretchedly if she doesn't get the attention she thinks she needs. It's really throwing a wrench in the entire family's functioning, and we are starting family counseling on 12/1 in large part because of this issue. Now don't get me wrong, I understand why she does this and I know that it's not unusual for a child in her situation, but it is still difficult to deal with. I was talking about this with someone I know and I mentioned how Desta takes up about 80% of my attention and the other kids have to compete for the remaining 20%, and my friend said, "Well, that's no different than having a new baby." Honestly, I wanted to punch her because it was so obvious that she had NO clue. A baby can be deposited in a sling and have 80% of its needs met by just riding around with Momma. A baby can be worn while you attend to your other kids' needs. A 12 year old CAN NOT! A 12 year old can (literally) shove your other kids out of the way to demand attention.

Oh, and did I mention that we are also dealing with the typical 12-year-old attitude? I have mentioned to people before that I feel like she has 4-year-old behaviors with a 12-year-old attitude. That makes for an interesting combination.

Unlike annethcz, we have not found language to be much of an issue. Desta came to us with a small amount of English, and we had a small amount of Amharic, and between us and with the help of Ethiopian friends, we seem to have gotten through the early days of limited communication pretty well. Desta is still not "fluent" in English, but she can certainly hold her own, and it's rare these days that we don't understand one another. She does pretty well expressing her feelings.

And I don't mean to paint the situation as all doom and gloom. Desta is an extremely funny, extremely friendly girl, and despite the annoyances of the situation, she fits well into our family. We have a lot of fun with her (when she's not pouting or giving me the silent treatment) and she has challenged us to expand our interests and viewpoints. I am, however, going to be completely honest here and say that, six months in, I still ask myself whether I love her. I like her, I feel compassion for her, I want her to be with us, and I have great affection for her, but I am not certain yet whether I love her. There are still times when she sits down next to me and tries to cuddle and I want to get up and walk away. I think that it is because she expects (and of course has a right to expect, as I am her mother) a level of intimacy in our relations that I am just not comfortable with yet. Like annethcz, I really did not know this girl at all when she dropped into our lives. It took a long time to start feeling like she was a member of the family and not a guest. (In fact, it was our first big discipline scenario, where dh and I started sending her to bed 15 minutes early for every time she interrupted us, thereby wiping out a 40-to-50-interruptions-a-day problem in less than a week) that I really started to feel like she was a member of the family. I think that is when she started to feel like a member of the family, too. I think that situation was the turning point where she realized (for both the better and the worse) that she was going to be held responsible for her behavior just like the younger kids are. (And please no flaming for our decision to punish our daughter; we followed the advice of an adoption therapist on that one. And it brought big and positive changes in our interactions.)

That brings me to something else. The way I parent my younger kids has not worked well with Desta. We are pretty laid-back, go-with-the-flow parents. Desta needs a lot more structure and direction than our younger kids do, and it took me about 5 months to realize that/implement it. Desta is doing a lot better now that I ditched unschooling, instituted a structured academic program, and got her going on a regimen of daily chores. I have to keep her busy or things deteriorate very quickly. Adjusting to her differing parenting needs has been difficult, as has been feeling like my friends think I am too harsh with her in our discipline. But the therapist I was talking to pointed out that Desta's discipline in Ethiopia was EXTREMELY concrete and that she was most likely confused by the more-talk, less-action approach we were taking. It was like, unless we did something about the behavior, she didn't understand what we wanted.

Anyway, this has gotten long and babbling. Do I recommend adopting an older child? If you have already parented a child of that age, yes. If the child will not be your oldest child in the home, yes. If you feel comfortable having your parenting skills challenged, yes. If you think that you can share your home and family with someone whose values are very different, yes. If you will be ok with the fact that your life will change dramatically because you will now be living with someone whose personality is pretty much formed, yes. I'm not sure that I was the right person to do this, but I think that things are going very well overall, and (most of the time
) I am not sorry we did this.

Namaste!
 

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I wanted to add that when you adopt an older child, that child will come with his/her own ideas about what life with you will be like and what type of parent you will be. Dealing with differing expectations can be difficult.

Namaste!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for your replies. It's very hard (for me) to find people who have adopted older children, so hearing your stories is very illuminating. I have done some research on the web, but most of the stuff I've found hasn't been of the personal anecdote type--more logistical.

If we decide to adopt, we would not be looking to do so for at least a few years. dharmamama...I have great respect for you for adopting an 11-year-old (I've actually followed your story for awhile), but I do not think that we feel prepared to adopt a child that old. I guess I was thinking more in the 2-5 year-old range.

Although we're not positive when or even if we'd like to adopt, we've (well, I've) done a lot of research to explore our options. We'd probably either do Russian/Eastern European adoption or Korea. For us, there are very strong pros and cons to each choice, so we're weighing those. For Russia/Eastern Europe (which, right now, is probably our most likely choice), children seem to be somewhat older when they come home (vs. Korea, that is) and there seem to be a LOT of toddlers/young kids in need of homes. My dh and I are both of Eastern European heritage (I have some Russian), and we have some ties there now (my sister owns businesses in 3 Eastern European countries and her dh is Polish).

But I digress. dharmamama...if you don't mind my asking, how old was your ds when you brought him home? How different was his adoption from Desta's? (Love that picture of him in the tutu, btw!)
 

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I posted this in your thread about adopting a toddler:

Quote:

Originally Posted by dharmamama
We adopted our son form an orphanage in Ethiopia when he was officially 21 months old (he was probably 6-12 months older than that). We have had ZERO attachment problems with him. Of our three children, he is definitely the most pleasant, personable, and easy-going. He is now officially 45 months old. (I think he is probably 55-57 months old.) He has the physical dexterity and language skills of a 4.5 to 5 year old. (He has articulation issues, but his receptive language skills are superior.) He has the social skills of a four year old. He has the emotional skills of a 3-4 year old. So he is "ahead" of his given age on somethings, "behind" his probable actual age on some thing, but overall he's just your normal, happy, dippy, energetic kid.

The only "issue" we ever had with him (aside from the attention span of a gnat) is that he wants to eat constantly. That is an emotional thing for him. We think he was hungry before he came to us, and food is security to him. But it's not a huge issue.
How was his adoption different from Desta's? Efram's was EASY. Desta's has been HARD.

Namaste!
 

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Hmmm...not sure if you are looking for any more feedback on kids above the 2-5 age range, but I read dharmamama's first post, and couldn't help but post myself. I have not adopted an older child, but I did accept a permanent foster placement of a fifteen year old (permanent meaning until either aging out of foster care and even then, often much longer...with dfs, we were told from the get go to expect a lifetime commitment).

So much of what dharmamama said just brought me right back to that experience.

Quote:
It has been both great and terrible.
Yes. That sums it up. It truly was the greatest hell at times, and at other times, a wonderful experience. Regardless, I did eventually develop a love for dfs, and looking back have no regrets despite how very, very hard it was.

I will say that dfs's placement with us was terminated early when a moron newbie director of foster care at the therapeutic foster care agency we were with decided to give the poor child a choice of who his parents would be after he went to respite at someone's house and decided they were his "dream family." This was a child who had 23 homes/families and 10 years in care (and all connections lost with all of his birthfamily) by the time he came to us...of course he found a way to stir up instability as soon as he stabalized in our home. It was just the director who screwed up and decided to let him choose to do so rather than giving him his one shot at permanency. He is now an adult, and updates confirm that only tragedy resulted from this move, and that he never again got a "permanent family" to call his own. Sorry for the tangent, but I felt the need to disclose why I am not still talking about him as his mother. I feel so sad about this. I still miss him and think of him frequently.

Quote:
she has 4-year-old behaviors with a 12-year-old attitude
That was totally dfs. He had a 15 year old attitude...all the raging hormones, and all the teen angst and rage, etc. etc. (plus some!), but developmentally he ranged from 3-11 years old depending on the area of development you were talking about, the nature of the situation, and how much stress he was under at the time.

Quote:
The way I parent my younger kids has not worked well with Desta. We are pretty laid-back, go-with-the-flow parents. Desta needs a lot more structure and direction than our younger kids do, and it took me about 5 months to realize that/implement it.
Yes, for us it was a long, slow, and ever-evolving process of leaving behind parenting ideals for what our dfs needed. For example, I have always wanted our kids to have intrinsic motivation for behaving in appropriate ways. dfs had never developed such motivation, and in fact, had developed a dysfunctional cycle of misbehavior to fulfill his needs. He not only wasn't motivated toward appropriate behavior, but the very act of behaving appropriately went against the grain of his survival skills. In the end, there was no way to avoid being the motivation for either good or bad behavior in dfs. We had to dole out negative consequences for bad behavior (and often "harsh" ones at that...he needed no subtleties, no grey areas, etc.), and we had to reward good behavior constantly. Sticker charts did indeed come to rest on our fridge.

Our lives had to become completely structured and predictable. When things shifted, or had any element of unpredicatibility, dfs had to revert back to survival mode and all chaos would break lose. In addition, dfs had to be accounted for at all times. Left unsupervised, he nearly destroyed everything he touched (not to mention that he could also become an abuser of animals or other people). I had to check on him every five minutes or so if he was in another room...the very least of the reasons being that he, like a three year old, could turn the kitchen upside down and badly burn himself "trying to cook" a scrambled egg or could shred a stack of important papers trying to make a collage. At school he had a one-on-one educator who followed him all day to every single one of his classes. She picked him up when I dropped him off in the morning, and delivered him to me each afternoon. At the grocery store he had to stay an arms length from my cart or he might wander off somewhere in huge trouble.

The day I finally allowed him to take a walk around the block was huge. I told him he had to be back in five minutes or I would come looking. We went walking together over and over, charting the path he was allowed to take with the hopes it would become hard-wired. I called the neighbors to ask that they keep an eye on him. And *still* the third time he went he ended up going to the corner store and getting into heaps of trouble with the manager there. So we had to start all over, and he couldn't walk alone for quite some time.

Quote:
Another challenge has been her bottomless pit of need for attention.
Yes, so truly. And beyond that, and I know it sounds silly, but the way he sought attention could drive me up the wall. Apparently he had developed the belief that he was a fantastic singer. Now imagine the worst of the worst at American Idol first additions, and you might have a 10% inkling of what he really sounded like. Okay, now think of that, and think of that about 16 hours a day. Literally. At the top. of. his. lungs. Inside the car whether windows were rolled up or down, out in public on the sidewalk, at the grocery store, at the library even. Yes, at the top. of. his. lungs. And think Brittney Spears songs over and over in this loud singing voice following you everywhere you went. And everytime someone turns their head to look, he thinks it is because he is sooo darn good, gets all excited about the attention, and just turns it up.

Quote:
And I don't mean to paint the situation as all doom and gloom. Desta is an extremely funny, extremely friendly girl, and despite the annoyances of the situation, she fits well into our family. We have a lot of fun with her (when she's not pouting or giving me the silent treatment) and she has challenged us to expand our interests and viewpoints.
Absolutely. We shared some very tender moments, lots of laughter, and great fun. dfs taught me many things about people, about the world. dfs was often adorable, and usually hilarious. I know I came to love him very much in part because of how hard I grieved when he left.

The attachment process for an older child in adoption requires all the same stages as attaching with a younger child. But the challenge is that when they are older, or when they have experienced certain types of abuse, etc....you're much more limited in *how* you move through the stages (no slings, sometimes limited or no cuddling, and so forth).

Now I know, NYCveg, that some of this is probably way more than you might ever encounter with a child adopted at 2-5 years old. But some might be. Instituionalization (orphanges, etc.), abrupted attachments, lack of quality caregivers, etc. along with possible risk factors of less than stellar or no prenatal care and possible drug or alcohol exposure (yes, even in other countries) can all wreak havoc on the way a child learns to *be* in the world. While every situation is different, and children can be amazingly resiliant, I would keep in mind that these types of issues can arise.

Having said that, I do hope that after my kids are grown, I do this again for more than even just one child.
 

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I can relate! Great and terrible or maybe not terrible but definitely challenging at times. Comes with her own ideas and a history that we only know part of and we know that affects our day to day life with her and our ability to support her needs.

The neverending need for attention rings a bell too.

I wouldn't change my mind for anything. We love her to bits.
 

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Our children were 1 and 5 years old at the time of placement nearly 4-years ago. Makala and Jeremiah are from the US Foster Care system and biological siblings. Since they were placed two more siblings have been born and we were asked to adopt them as well--however the needs of Makala are so extreme we were not able to take the new babies. Thankfully, both are together and were adopted by the same family.

Our daughter was sexually abused before the age of 4 (when placed into Foster Care) and is Alcohol Exposed she has Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders. This was only recently diagnosed after four years of a VERY difficult life for the whole family. Makala has had two--9 day-psych hospital admissions, for violent behaviors, and attended 14 months of day treatment (full-day, 5-days a week-year round with only one week off last Christmas) She is also Diagnosed with PTSD, and Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Things are starting to settle down--but, as soon as I type this I am sure something new will come up... But, I love her like my life depends on it.

Jeremiah was born addicted to Heroin and is developmentally delayed about a year. He was toilet trained just before he turned 4. We just got done having his tonsils removed as he suffered Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and there is a possibility of Narcolepsy which is still too early to completely diagnose. He has never slept through the night.

He had some adjustment issues, but not the kind of attachment issues his sister had and has no memory of life with other parents.

Parenting my little ones is very different then parenting my biologicals (23 and 22) was. Some of it is due to the special needs they have but a lot is due to their different personalities my little ones are much more strong-willed.

There are some great points in adopting pre-school ages, I think the best was that I still had some time with Jeremiah before he started school. I did NOT have time with Makala before we had to get her enrolled in kindergarten and If I had it to do all over again I would have home schooled for the first year at least.

My life has been very blessed by the adoption of my little ones, but I am thankful that I have no biological children living in the home, especially younger children. As it is my college kids don't get as much of me as I had hoped I would be able to give them... It has been tiring at times and if we didn't have a rock-solid marriage there would have been some real issues come up over the amount of stress-daily life can become.

There have been some terrible injuries because of the violent behaviors of our daughter at nearly 9 now she weighs 105 and is almost as tall as I am... When first placed she shoved me backward over the baby gate and 9 months later I had back surgery... Just when I think she is done with violence she has a fit like she did the other night--and I got kicked in the mouth!

It isn't always very happy and It is difficult to deal with her anger. But, we keep advocating and doing what we can to find her all the help we can. I still believe she will do well in the end... I guess it just takes a lot of faith.

At the end of the day I can't imagine anyone else taking care of my babies the way I do--and I know my life is more because I have the chance to love them unconditionally.
 

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I'm going to have to really limit myself on blabbing about this topic, because I honestly could talk all night about the adoption of older children and teens.
See, I have 15 siblings...3 biological, and 12 adopted. (I myself am not adopted) I was 15 when my parents first adopted 2 boys, ages 12 and 13. About a year later, an 8 yr. old boy was welcomed to our family. A year and a half later, an 11 yr. old boy joined the clan. Then, almost 3 yrs. later, my parents adopted a sibling group of 8--7 boys and 1 girl. (They had set out to adopt a daughter, and their caseworker called w/ info on a 9 yr. old girl...and her 8 bros)
If I would have thought anyone was prepared and equipped to deal w/ the emotional and psychological needs of these children, it would have been my parents.
They both have a tremendous amount of patience and unconditional love; both were teachers; my mom taught special ed. for nearly 30 years.
However, NO ONE in the family, was prepared for all the issues that were to come...we've dealt with numerous trust issues, stealing, violence, alleged sexual incidents, jailtime, prisontime, reactive attachment disorder,etc. etc. etc. from the adopted kids.
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Don't get me wrong....EVERYONE in the family love them, and accepts them regardless of the problems they have created...they ARE my SIBLINGS...

But I have many times been truly worried for my parents' health and sanity.

So, to anyone considering older child adoption, please research it thoroughly and have resources ready and available. You will need them. No matter how ideal of a situation it seems to be, you can't 100% forsee what is to come.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by HappyMomAnna View Post
There are some great points in adopting pre-school ages, I think the best was that I still had some time with Jeremiah before he started school. I did NOT have time with Makala before we had to get her enrolled in kindergarten and If I had it to do all over again I would have home schooled for the first year at least.
While I don't think it's necessary to homeschool 'older' adopted children, I believe that homeschooling has really helped with the adjustment for my DS. It's helped with attachment, it's helped me to get to know my DS better. Simply put, the more time I spend with my DS, the more of a connection I make with him. Although we are relaxed homeschoolers, I do sometimes use curriculum with my adopted DS. I've found that doing this with him has really helped me to feel more positive about DS. I feel proud of DS because I'm able to work with him and see how much he is learning, and see how much he is improving.

We did consider sending our adopted DS to school when he was having difficulties during his first few months. But we rode out the difficulties, and I'm so glad.
 
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