Monday, February 27, 2012

Lessons from our first week together

This week has been a wonderfully busy and joyful. There is an air of newness for all our children as they discover more about each other, living in a larger family and of course our new little ones learn more about life in America. Here are some things that have been extremely helpful to manage the chaos that is going on:

1. Preserving some of the familiar
We have spices and condiments that the children are used to in Ghana. I learned to fix a couple of basic recipes that I know they will eat. This seems to bring them so much comfort as  much has changed. They are slowly trying new foods, but this is ALL at the pace. We also know a few basic phrases in their native language Twi: "are you ok?" and "come here" are the most used. I love to be able to check on them in their native language as they will give me a quick "yeah yeah" when they are ok and a head shake when something is wrong.

2. Schedule
Our son does better when he knows what to expect. In Ghana he had a predictable day with school and meals and all that has changed. Since he knows a little English, I usually hold one finger up and tell him what comes first. Then I hold two fingers up and tell the next thing. I usually stop at three and one of them is always a meal. Initially he was unsure if we would continue to feed him, so this was reassuring.

3. Attachment
I know attachment is a lengthy process but I try to discover opportunities whenever possible. Today we played games that encouraged eye contact and staying close to Mommy and Daddy. In the case of siblings, we also try to have times when they are playing separately as they tend to ask each other for help instead of a parent. We use phrases like "Mommy will help you" and "Daddy will keep you safe" to reaffirm when we help them with a task. Agyeiwaa loves to be carried and each day I carry her while completing regular tasks around the house. She is immediately calm and relaxed.

4. Siblings
I have been especially aware of paying attention to Emmi and Jake while their new siblings demand a lot of our attention. They are at school during the day, which makes taking care of Kofi and Agyeiwaa during the day easier. Once they are home though, we have made sure to find one on one time with each child daily to make sure they are not concerned about all the changes. Since their new siblings have an early bed time by choice, we take an hour to do something familiar with them such as read a book, play a game or watch a tv episode.

5. Avoid over stimulation
When I first moved to United States, I was old enough to make the choice to move here and I also spoke English pretty well. But even then, I was absolutely exhausted each day from all the new sights, sounds, language, noises, food, culture and thinking about every sentence that came out of my mouth. For my children, I would think the same is true, except they didn't choose to come here, they don't speak the language well and they are much younger. Therefore, we try to keep the environment as simple as possible. No TV, very little music, familiar food and simple schedule. We have not gone on outings (other than the Dr office and Kofi went to the grocery store with me) and we have only had one visit from family. We want them to be absolutely comfortable at home before we introduce them to new things and people.

6. Have fun
This is the time we have dreamed about for so long. Seeing our children in our home is such a surreal feeling as we have known them only in their environment in Ghana. We have had such sweet moments as they discover new words, come to us for hugs and as they fall asleep in our arms.

This is what has worked for us during the first week. We mess up, we get better and we learn together.


  1. So glad to hear the update. I've thought about you all a lot and prayed for you often. Sounds like you're doing well...and it must be nice that two of the kids are in school. Also...did NOT know that you weren't born in the US!

  2. It sounds so wonderful! Thanks for posting.