Thursday, June 16, 2011

Raising a Healthy Adopted Child: Relationships with Peers

We discussed the sometimes stressful relationships children can have with their close family members on Monday. Relationships with peers can provide an unique insight into your child's "outside" personality, should you be able to observe their interaction.

With a peer that is relatively unknown (a new friend at school, for example, or a neighbor at the pool), Mae exhibits what I label "the fake personality." She is achingly shy, rude even,  and will seldom, if at all, make eye contact. She will cling to me and not engage with the other child at all.

This worried me for years, until she began preschool. The preschool had a little closet with a one-way mirror - perfect for nervous mothers to spy on their children! Sure enough, like most children, I learned that while she was painfully shy and reserved for the first few weeks, months even, when she finally became comfortable, she came out of her shell.

This has advanced itself now, at age 5 (almost 6!) to a mere five minutes of initial shyness, after which she will engage with her little friends with much joy. What a relief!

I do notice a strong desire in Mae, and in other adopted children that I know, for sameness. Mae very much wants to "be the same" as her classmates. Whether that means bangs or darker skin, she is acutely aware of the ways in which she is different (sadly, she is the only Chinese child in her entire grade).

Another friend of ours, a boy I babysat when he and Mae were little, recently was asking about adoption. He was stunned to find out that Mae was adopted. It had never occurred to him.

This sensitivity to "being different" will, I expect, continue to play a role in Mae's psyche for a long time to come. There are a lack of local Chinese schools here, which is why friends and I are considering starting a car pool to enroll our children in the Chinese school an hour away. Somewhere, somehow, they just want to fit in.

She is a genuinely introverted child while I am an extrovert. I am grateful to all she has taught me about respecting her method of dealing with her peers. It may be different, but in the end, she has lovely little friends and she loves playing with them!

How does your child react with her peers? Do you notice extra shyness when meeting a new friend? How do you help your child in these moments? 

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