We are back from our family vacation and I wish I could sit at my computer writing about so many things, but there are still suitcases to unpack, laundry to be washed, and an empty refrigerator to fill. First, I must thank the wonderful Guest Authors who stepped in and did a fantastic job sharing their thoughts about life as adoptive mothers. I have three more great posts I will be sharing during the month of January and I know you will love them.
Second, although I don’t have time to write much, I do have answers to our last Tuesday Topic which was suggested by Sarah:
My 4-year old Ethiopian princess and my 4 1/2-year old son are horribly competitive. We have done everything we know how to do to help each one of them feel special, unique, and loved, but seem to be making no progress. This is frustrating and makes life very unpleasant at times. It is especially hard to watch our son, who is not the same happy little boy he was before his sister came home. He loves her, and he doesn’t like being separated from her, but at the same time, he seems to be showing great deals of anger, insecurity, and jealousy. And, it is difficult to not be angry when we watch our daughter taunt him and put real effort into goading him by telling him that she isn’t his friend, that she likes our 6-year old son better, etc…
This is what you all had to say:
Dee Dee and Julie weren’t offering suggestions, but their comments reflect what many of us feel. This is one of the tough issues so many of us face. We have had significant struggles with competition between some of our adopted children and our children by birth. The stress of this grew to crazy proportions before we finally got professional help.
With the help of our amazing therapist, we continue to work on this issue. Here are a few things we are trying:
1. Russ and I create a “barrier” between the children when the tension of competition gets too high and unbearable. I often separate my girls when I see this happening. I’ll have one of them come work with me, or send one to play in another room.
2. We talk openly with the children about the fact that making other people feel sad or bad is a symptom of having a “broken heart” and that sometimes it is difficult for Dimples to feel happy for other people. As she heals, we know she will become increasingly capable of sharing another person’s happiness even when there is no benefit to her.
3. I try to anticipate situations before they happen and be ready to defuse them quickly. For example, if one child gets a special privilege that I know will be a powerful tool to hold over another sibling, I inform the other sibling of it in advance and help them process their feelings which removes some power from the child who struggles with this problem.
4. Deborah has also addressed this very directly in therapy and talked about how our birth children seem to have “easier” lives than our adopted children who suffered such great losses and tragedies in their early years. We acknowledge this is true, but that now that Dimples is in a family, she can let us take care of her. She does not have to protect and care for herself, which leaves room in her heart for love…even love for a sibling who has had an easier life. She doesn’t need to waste her time and energy making sure that everything is fair anymore.
5. We continue to work on helping Dimples learn what it means to be a “family girl”. In our experience, much of her competitive behavior stems from the skills that were so desperately needed for survival as an orphaned child. These skills are what protected her and kept her alive. They feel safe, even if they are no longer truly helpful to her.
My prayer is that as Dimples feels safer and as her heart heals, we will see these behaviors begin to slip away, like the shedding of a snake’s old skin, to be left behind. I think it is going to be a long process, but I am hopeful.
Thank you to everyone who responded. Please feel free to add more comments and answers to this post.
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