Thursday, May 26, 2011

Don't Leave Me Alone

Last week, we had a very special house guest: Grandpa! Grandpa flew in on a Saturday afternoon and stayed til Thursday. As always, it was too brief a visit, but it was a great one. Oh, how the children love their grandpa! Mae in particular has a very special relationship with each grandparent individually. Grandpa K was especially good at making her laugh and reading her stories.

When we have a house guest, Mae kindly (and with much joy, I might add!) gives up her room and sleeps on the floor in my bedroom. Her room is large, has a full size bed, and has an attached bathroom. She also loves sleeping in our room and the whispering-in-bed chatting that goes along with such an arrangement.

In general, sleep issues are common among adopted children, and our daughter was no exception. In a later post, I’ll go into the ways we reassured our daughter that she was safe enough to go to sleep. It was not an easy fix, but we did it. (She is the only one of my children who will ask to go to bed at night!)

The distinct dislike of being alone transcends bedtime; many adopted children are uncomfortable being alone at all. Why is this? In Mae’s case, being alone is a very upsetting thing. She has come a long way, but it is still hard for her. One example of this is time-out. We so seldom use time-out with Mae and Sam that we often have to re-explain it to them when we choose to enforce it. Oftentimes, it is a result of back-talk. Mae can disagree with me until the cows come home, and we are working hard to teach her to be more respectful.

We learned long ago that having Mae in her room with the door closed is a complete disaster. Rather than calming down, being alone panics her into a frenzy of sweating and screaming. Obviously, we don’t use this method anymore!

Another version involves leaving the door open. More often than not, however, her raging includes slamming her bedroom door over and over. Needless to say, we don’t do this very much either.

When she was younger, we managed by holding her in the rocking chair and letting her scream and cry. It seldom calmed her, but at least we were present during her despair. Now that she is older, a simple five-minute time-out on the steps works beautifully. She is not alone; we are all around her, going about our business.

Whatever the reason for being alone, we always take care to hold and comfort her when the period of separation has ended. Even time on the steps provokes tears and the need for a cuddle. Sometimes I think these moments are the most raw and important for both of us. She desperately needs to know that I will be there for her, and I just as desperately need her to know that I will be. Always and forever.

How does your child react to being alone, even in a non-physical way? What tools do you use to comfort them?

photo credit


grandpa kessie said...

Good job. I am so proud of you.

Grandpa J

Mary Angerer said...

Ellen, it has been so many years since we adopted our children that it is hard to remember some of the issues we had. But one thing I do remember is that our son, far from not wanting to be alone, had a serious independent streak from infancy. When he was only seven months old he wanted nothing to do with being held when I fed him. I remember him struggling to get down from my lap and hold his own bottle on the floor. That continued throughout his growing up years. When he was three years old he overcame a fear of dogs because he wanted to be outside with "the boys". (Our neighborhood was a new one with many small boys.) He eventually had five sisters so that might have something to do with it, but he was always a roamer who had to be summoned home to meals.