Dr. Karyn Purvis said, “If you didn’t teach your child something then don’t assume he knows or understands it.” We have found this to be very true in our family.
When my daughter joined our family last year, people were often curious about how her English language was progressing. Some assumed this would be the challenging aspect of our adoption. For us, teaching her English was the easy part. What was not so easy was teaching her that the skills she needed to survive in an orphanage were really different than the skills she needed to thrive outside of an orphanage setting. We also struggled teaching her concepts like what it meant to have a mommy and daddy and what a family was. Instead of really focusing on acquiring the English language (which happened quickly), our focus was on teaching our daughter the language and ways of family (which takes more time). That’s where we had to be intentional. Over the past year, I have come to appreciate the power of children’s books and play to help our family as we attach and bond. Lots of us talk and write about our favorite attachment and bonding books for an adult audience, however today’s post is about my daughter’s favorite children’s books that helped our family bond and attach.
Before my daughter understood or spoke much English, we made a picture book of my husband and I doing nurturing and fun activities with our daughter (recommended in the book, Attaching in Adoption by Gray). Every photo was of us together. Our daughter was resistant to nurture for many months, so we had to get creative with the photos we included. One page in the book was a photo of me putting a bandaid on her “owie”, one page was of my daughter asleep in my husband’s arms, another was a photo of me pushing her in a swing, and another was of me feeding her gummy bears (her personal favorite). Many times throughout the day and during high anxiety moments, my daughter would reach for this book. This simple book was a reminder to her that we are fun and we take care of her. We made several copies of this book for just a couple of dollars at our local drugstore’s photo development center.
One of my daughter’s favorite books is My Mommy from the Disney Baby Animals Stories 12 Book Block. Although the book is very simple and small, it was a helpful tool to help her understand that I will take care of her. The words in the book have become a powerful script my daughter recites daily. “My mommy feeds me,” “My mommy keeps me safe and warm,” and “My mommy loves to cuddle” are the phrases I will hear her recite several times per day. When my daughter was resistant to nurture, we turned this into a time to play what we saw in the book, making sure to only do what my daughter was comfortable with. But, this was a great opportunity to demonstrate nurture with play.
Mommy Hugs by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben is another favorite. We read this book each night at bedtime, and my daughter loves to act it out with me. The book shows different mommy animals hugging their baby animal and ends with a human mother and child hugging. Each time I hug her the way the mommy animal does, my daughter responds affectionately and says, “Oh, that’s so sweet.” The author also wrote Daddy Cuddles and Daddy Kisses.
My daughter Lydia and I are extremely excited about a new series of books by licensed clinical social worker and author Cindy R. Lee. I first learned about Cindy from hearing great things about The Halo Project she helps lead in Oklahoma. Cindy’s children’s books teach important concepts developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. Richard Cross’ Trust-Based Relation Intervention (for more on TBRI, see the book The Connected Child and these NHBO posts: TBRI part 1, TBRI part 2 and TBRI part 3. TBRI is often recommended as a helpful tool for adoptive and foster families.
Each book teaches parent and child an important Trust-Based Relation Intervention concept or script. For the parent, the book includes a one page summary of the concept. Although I regularly spend time watching the TBRI DVDs and reading and re-reading The Connected Child, I have found Cindy’s summaries and examples to be helpful. The book also includes one page of teaching tips for parents. She includes a script that parents can use, discussion questions, a game to play with your child, and tips for real life implementation. The summary information and exercises are incredibly helpful, it would be a mistake to turn past these pages thinking it is only a book for children. Although my daughter is too young to understand the discussion questions, she absolutely loves the books and so do I. The illustrations are fun and colorful. The stories are educational, funny, and sweet. Even though the stories are written to teach the child an important concept, they remind me of important things I forget in the day to day. Unlike the other books I mentioned above, I think Cindy’s books are appropriate for a broad range of ages (like I mentioned before, I learn from it too).
To date, three children’s books by Cindy R. Lee have been published –
Baby Owl Lost Her Whoo — This book tells the story of a baby owl who was “left alone” and needs a mommy owl to show the baby owl what is best. The book covers concepts such as sticking together and in a gentle way reminds the child that the mommy owl is the boss. Every time we read this book, my daughter gives me a big hug and kiss and says she loves her mommy owl. This shows me that she really gets it. Also, this book gives me a gentle and playful way to engage and correct my daughter. For example, when my daughter cries and demands that she wants a cookie for breakfast and says, “Gimme a cookie right now!” I might say, “Whoa precious baby owl! Who is the mommy owl?” and I recite the line from the book about the mommy owl making sure the baby owl eats healthy food. Usually, this has helped my daughter even in the moment when it is hard to accept no…because let’s be honest, I also want a cookie for breakfast.
Doggie Doesn’t Know No — This book tells the story of a dog that is available for adoption. The dog used to be on his own, and once he is in a family, he has to learn what “no” means. This book has been so helpful for me and my daughter. Because of it, I have become more intentional about saying “yes” more throughout the day about inconsequential things that way she is more likely to accept no on the bigger things. It helped me realize our days were full of many “no, no, no’s” and that doesn’t help us connect.
It’s Tough to Be Gentle — This book tells the story of Rex, a dragon who is trying to learn how to be gentle and kind.
Another China adoptive mom and I have talked at length about how our daughter’s have positively responded to the books Cindy authored. We also wait with great anticipation for each book to be published. To read about the upcoming five book titles and the concepts they teach visit the author’s website.