Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A re-post I thought you all would enjoy

This post is from one of the Ethiopian Adoption blogs I stalk read on a regular basis. I thought that, while there are specific implications when looking at it from an adoption perspective...we can all get better at "living in a life of gray". I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! If you like this, you can follow this amazing family @

It is always difficult for Dimples when things don't go as she anticipates. Changes in routine, menu, wardrobe, etc. are all challenging for her and very keenly felt, which has resulted in overly dramatic responses. If you have a child like this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. In a recent appointment, Deborah talked to Dimples about the idea that life is not "All or Nothing". In Dimples' mind, it is all black and white, so one of our healing tasks is to help her learn to live comfortably in a life of gray.

For example, in the past, when it was time to set the table, Dimples might ask to set the plates, but if I had already told one of the other children they could do the plates, drama ensued. She wasn't able to accept that there was another job that just might be okay as well. Now we practice saying, "It's not what I want, but it is okay." Or, if we were reading a book and another child was sitting on my lap, she couldn't cope with that, and disrupted all of us. If she couldn't be happily sitting on my lap, nobody could be happy at all.

When a child is an orphan and a survivor, she can't afford to think, "If I get a little and they get a little, it's okay. There is plenty to go around." In reality, there may not be plenty at all. Or, when the nanny opens the clothing cupboard for the children to get dressed, the little girl can't think to herself, "If I wait sweetly and patiently, I just might get that pink dress that I love so much." No, she rushes to the front, smiling her cutest fake smile, hoping to attract the nanny's attention, and pleading, oh so sweetly, for the pink dress.

Then we place this child, who has learned to be a survivor, in a family, and we wonder why she can't take turns, and why she gets so agitated as the food is being passed around the table. And why, oh why, does she wail when she can't wear the pink shirt that is in the laundry today?

So we practice coping with disappointment. We say, "It's okay if I can't wear my pink shirt today. I have a green one that I also like." Or, "It's okay if Ladybug puts the plates on the table, I can put the glasses on, and that is a fun job too."

If you have a child who completely falls apart when things don't go her way, who has reactions that are completely out of proportion with the situation, who can't accept changes in plans and is crushed by the simplest change, do not lose heart. Practice living comfortably in a life of gray. Role play situations where things don't go quite right and help her to find phrases that she can grasp and use.

Most recently, we are working on this with Dimples regarding school. She wants to do it all perfectly, which isn't possible. She also wants to do it all very quickly, which tends to have an inverse relationship with doing it perfectly. Each week she has a spelling test on Thursday and if she gets 100%, she is exempt from the test on Friday. She builds this up in her mind, but unfortunately, spelling is challenging for her. She has not gotten 100% on a Thursday yet. We adults know that this is not a big deal, but to her, it is black and white. Anything short of 100% is failure.

Our most recent phrase is, "Every week I do my best."

If a little extra help is needed, we rock in the rocking chair, we chew a piece of gum, or we take a few deep breaths. Jumping on the trampoline is good for resetting emotions as well.

This is nothing earth shattering, just one more thing we are learning along the way. Dimples is getting so much better at this and we are very, very proud of her.


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