Thursday, February 18, 2016

13 Ideas to Help YOU Survive the First Year Home With Your Newly Adopted Child

1. Yeti Tumbler
Your coffee will get cold and your tea will be lukewarm by the time you get around to drink it. And the coke you poured over ice 3 hours ago when you wanted to drink it, yea all of the ice is melted and your drink tastes gross now. The first year home is challenging with an new child. There will be so many messes and so many close calls that you forgot where you last put your coffee. And then when you finally find it, it's cold. I couldn't tell you how many gallons of coffee I had to throw out because it got cold. I know, I could have microwaved it and not have thrown it out. Yea, I tried that too, but some disaster or mishap would happen and I would leave it in the microwave. I got tired of microwaving the same coffee 3-4 times a day. This is why you need to go ahead and buy a Yeti tumbler. Or put it on your adoption registry. These tumblers can keep your beverage really hot or really cold for a long time. After getting one, I could not live without it.

2. Keurig/Verissmo/other fast coffee maker
It's been another long night with your new child. Your child finally went to bed at 2 am. And before you know it, your alarm is screaming at you that it's 6 am and it's time to start a new day. But wait, you hear something in your child's room. What the heck?!? Their waking up! Why?? You haven't even had coffee yet. Lucky for you, making coffee takes exactly one minute. When you parent hypervigilent children, YOU NEED COFFEE to help get you through the day! And you need it fast.

3. Crockpot
Making dinner will definitely be a hassle with a new child in the home. Who has time to stand in front of the stove while your new child writes on the walls with a sharpie (personal reference)? Ummm, I've been there and now I'm pleading with you. Don't have walls of sharpie drawings. Buy a crockpot. You literally throw stuff in there, set on low, and walk away. When dinner time comes, all you have to do is serve it. I love my crockpot. It has made life so much easier since I started using it.

4. Freezer Meals
This goes with the crockpot. A newly adopted child will have many, MANY, many doctor's appointments, dentist, ophthalmology, pediatrician, and other specialists they send you to. You will literally be running around town all day and the last thing you want to do is to stand in front of the stove. For those super busy days or those super hard days with your new child, make it easy on yourself and use a "freezer meal". Freezer meals take time up front but in the long run, but they are so worth it. Pick an afternoon to throw some together in ziplock bags. I have several recipes that I use. I like OAMM, 365 Days of Slow Cooking, or A Year of Slow Cooking.

5. Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
Most likely, your child will have sleeping issues. They will be scared to fall asleep at night. You might want to sleep in the same room with them as they get comfortable in your home. Sleeping on a hard floor is no fun which is why this product made the list. It's self-inflating, so that means no blowing up or having to pump it yourself. It automatically inflates on it's own. If you're not a fan of sleeping in the same room as your child, you can still get this sleeping pad or a variation for when your child gets scared and comes into your room. This could be their "scared bed" that they can get out and put next to your bed without having to wake you up during the night. Children are going to get scared at night in a new environment and having a "premade" bed that they can just use without waking mommy or daddy up during the night is a wonderful thing!

6. Rocking Chair
Rocking chairs are very calming, even to older children. Rocking helped to calm Smalls down for bed time. If you're child is having a difficult time, hold them like a baby and rock them. Stare into their eyes as you rock. This will help the bonding process between the two of you. The rocking motion is also soothing to the brain. I used our rocking chair with Smalls for several hours a day. Smalls would get so hypervigilent and the only way to calm her down was to wrap her up in a blanket and rock her. In addition to the traumatic times Smalls would have, I also would rock her for 30 minutes after breakfast, lunch and dinner.

7. Calendar
During the first year, your mind will have 10 trillion thoughts. You will have lots of appointments with your new child. Life will get crazy and you don't want to forget an event. Some doctor's offices will charge you for not showing up to your appointments! Write everything down in your calendar. The first year will be exhausting emotionally and physically and your brain could use a break from having to remember all of those appointments and doctor's phone numbers! If you're not a fan of having a physical calendar, get one for your phone and track all of your appointments there. The goal is to make your life easier this first year.

8. Salsa and Chips, Chocolate Bars, Diet Coke, or your choice of comfort food
Parenting a new child brings on lots of challenges. You will have so many different emotions going through your body. While you're out grocery shopping buy some comfort food. If a bowl of salsa and chips will help you to destress for a moment, go for it! You are doing a hard job (parenting) that no one in this child's life has committed to do for them. Your child needs you to be relaxed and able to take on their stress because they never had that before-and it's hard! So, reward yourself!
(Cat from gave me this tip!)

9. A Friend
During this first year of getting to know your new little one chaos, you will need to call on someone throughout the day. You need someone that you trust, who will not judge you and say "well you knew what you were getting into right?". You need to be able to cry to this person and share your thoughts-you will have many thoughts, some nice and some not so nice. This friend could be a relative, spouse, or a neighbor. Have them call on you several times throughout the week to see if you need anything. You will need lots of support parenting your little one. I called Wes almost everyday for the first 6 months. It was brutal, but I'm glad he had a flexible schedule at work to listen to me.

10. A Reliable Babysitter for your Self-Care time
You need someone that you can trust to watch your little one while you take care of yourself. It could be the same friend from #9. They need to be trauma informed and know some background on your child. One requirement that I had for our babysitter was to read The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis or to read a pamphlet that I made on Smalls' issues and disabilities. I want our baby sitter to understand what Smalls is going through and babysitting her will be different than babysitting other children. If you are fortunate enough to trade out with another adoptive mom for babysitting, that's amazing and do it! You will need some alone time to destress and to take care of yourself. You can go grocery shopping all by yourself, get a hair cut, manicure/pedicure, or even clean your house. Those are all great things to do to take care of yourself. Do something you enjoy or something that makes your life easier throughout the week for a couple of hours each week. The first week of the month, I would take a whole Saturday or Sunday to do once a month grocery shopping and meal prep for the whole month. It was a hard day, but for the rest of the month I didn't really have to worry about dinner, except which meal I wanted to serve that day. And the best part about it was, that I got to "take a day off" from parenting. Of course, once a month grocery shopping and meal prep might wear some people out, but I found it therapeutic and it helped me out during the month.
 The next couple of weeks, I would take a couple of hours each week to do something fun like go shopping, go out to eat with a friend (no kids allowed!), or visit a coffee shop to read in peace. Being proactive in self care will help you to keep your cool when you parent a child from a traumatic background.

11. The Connected Child
This book by Dr. Karyn Purvis will be your go to parenting book. It will help explain some of the behaviors that your child is experiencing. The Connected Child outlines strategies for you to take to help calm the fears that your child is experiencing. I also have a list of other books that were helpful the first year of parenting Smalls-click here. Knowledge is power when you are parenting a child from the hard place!

12. Feelings Chart
Your child may not know how to express him or herself in a healthy way. If you've adopted an older child, you will probably need to teach them how to express their feelings with words and not behavior-that's the never ending challenge at my house! Having this feeling chart helps Smalls to point at her feelings because sometimes saying how she feels is too traumatic for her. Using this chart has changed some of my daughter's negative behaviors to teaching her to use her words to express how she is feeling and then we can dissect to the reasons behind why she is feeling these emotions. I also use Emotion plates to help as well.

13. Date night with your spouse
Your new little one will be a master at triangulating between you and your spouse. It is CRUCIAL to have a healthy marriage when parenting a child from a traumatic background. You have to work extra hard to protect your marriage. Try to go on a date night at least once a month with your spouse. Make time for your relationship because your child will suck all of your free time away if you let them. Yes, chaos and troubles will come up when you make time for your spouse, but show your child that you are committed to your spouse and that is first priority. If you can't go out on a physical date, put the kids to bed a little early, make some coffee and chat with your spouse about life and catch up with one another.

Did I forget anything? What would you add to this list?

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