Saturday, April 12, 2014

A child's transitions to a new country

As difficult as it has been for me to transition from life in China to life in the US, I suspect it’s been more difficult for my eldest son. The younger son isn’t old enough to remember China. He’s only 8 months old and has been here for most of that time. My eldest, however, remembers.

He remembers relatives.
He remembers friends,
He remembers foods.
He remembers activities.
He he knows things are different, even in what he doesn’t remember.

Would you spend your Thanksgiving at a Chinese light exhibition? We did.
People say kids adapt quickly. People say kids are resilient. I’m sure they are. But I don’t wake up inconsolable in the middle of the night (four of the past five nights, twice last night). I don’t wake up from naps frantically looking for mama. He does. Neither of these things happened in China.

I suspect he still feels out of place. He still observes groups of kids more than plays with them, which was not true of his China social life.

I suspect the month away from mama last year has affected his sense of security.

I wish he could tell me what’s going on. He’s made new friends, but I wish he had the language and cognitive ability to explain his feelings. He understands cars and car seats, but I wish he could explain his need to held for hours after a nap. He loves story time at the library, but I wish he could explain what’s happening when he starts wailing at midnight.

In all of this, my wife and I are just guessing at how to parent well. What does he need? More firmness? More gentleness? Do we need to indulge his need to be held at the loss of hours in a day? Does he need be held and spoken to calmly at night or would it be better to firmly tell him to go to bed? (We’ve had marginal success with both.) I hope we don't screw him up too much. I really hope we don't screw him up too much.

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