Sunday, November 29, 2009

Parents in Training

At the end of our last update, I mentioned that we were waiting to hear about a little boy. A few days later, we found out that he had been matched with another family. Because it had been about a month since we first showed interest, it wasn't a huge surprise that we were not his family to be. We were hopeful but realistic. This little boy wasn't meant to be part of our family, but we know that somewhere out there, our child is waiting.

We've been occupying much of our time by attending various parenting classes. Our first class was an infant and toddler child care class on Saturday, October 10th. The adventure actually started a few days prior to the class when we received a call from our social worker letting us know that the Baltimore marathon was going to be run the same day. Our normal route to the adoption agency happened to pass right through the start location of the marathon. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to drive that way, we decided to get up a little earlier and drive around to the north side of the city to bypass the race. Our alternate route worked well. We didn't have any problems getting to our class.

The class was very informative. It was taught by a nurse that is also an adoptive parent. In four hours, she went over an enormous amount of information. The primary topics included:

  1. Physical Care (bonding, bathing, diaper changing, and sleeping)
  2. Feeding
  3. Medical
  4. Safety (childproofing and car seats)

The class was an excellent overview of baby care topics with a focus on special challenges we may encounter as adoptive parents. In addition to the information we gathered in the class, we also were fortunate enough to meet a couple that also lives in southern Maryland. The majority of the couples that are adopting from Catholic Charities seem to be from central Maryland. It's nice to know that there is another family that isn't far away from us. They are a nice couple that we look forward to getting to know better.

In addition to our Saturday class, we also decided to take a series of classes covering parenting skills. For 6 consecutive Wednesday evenings, we drove to Baltimore to attend the "Hurricanes to Hugs" classes. We were taught a systematic approach to raising children using a proven parenting style. There was too much information to cover in this blog, but basically the training covered a step-by-step technique that parents can use for child development. The steps are...

  1. Empathy (identify feelings, needs, and messages behind a child's words and behaviors)
  2. Personal Message (communicate adult's feelings and expectations to the child in respectful and productive manner)
  3. Structuring (break down problems into manageable steps, anticipate obstacles, and develop plan to reach goals)
  4. Reinforcement (increase desired behavior)
  5. Inductive Discipline (guide child's behavior by introducing limits and establishing consequences while explaining rationales that support them)

At first, some of the concepts seemed a little counter intuitive. But as we progressed through the classes, we started to gain a better understanding of the concepts and how to apply them in parenting situations (and other situations in our lives). It's going to take some practice and focus to put the principals into use, but the benefits to our child will be huge.

We know that we are only scratching the surface of what it will take to be great parents. The classes we've taken are just the foundation. We still have much to learn and will be challenged every day as parents, but we look forward to those challenges.

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