If the Shoe Fits

As much as we like to “say it isn’t so” adoptive parenting is somewhat different than parenting a biological child. Not “less than” but different. These differences come from the differences in causes of behavior.

An example that I like to use when teaching pre-adoption classes is shoes. Both non-adopted and adopted children may both love shoes: however, the reason that they love shoes may be vastly different.

Typically a child loves shoes because they are pretty, new, a favorite color, match a favorite outfit, they feel good, or fit better than a previous pair. In addition to these reasons, adopted children may also love shoes because they may be the first pair of shoes they have ever seen or owned, they have never had a new pair of shoes, or they had never worn shoes that fit properly. They may have never seen sneakers or Mary Jaynes, much less shoes with wheels or lights.

It’s no wonder that newly adopted children have been known to sleep in their shoes because they love them immensely or are afraid someone will take them while they sleep. Children who have worn shoes that were too big or especially to small, may have to learn to re-walk properly. The shoes my daughter wore at the orphanage were so small they made red stripes on her feet. For years I had to remind my daughter not to adjust straps on her shoes so tightly.

While love of shoes may be a somewhat benign example of the impact of orphanage care, an adopted child's early life experiences are different than his non-adopted peers. These differences often require using different parenting techniques to help him overcome early obstacles so that he can trust that his shoes will be there in the morning.