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Monday, 18 January 2021
Letter to Parents from Author of Silent Tears Print

Letter to the parents of children of China,

I want my story to bring you hope. Hope that in life, all things are connected. Many times while in China, I prayed for a child to be adopted, all along not knowing they were already close to Gotcha Day—and I was just in their life for a short time to love them through the hurt. It took years for all of my hopes to be recognized and fulfilled—or at least years until I was privy to the results. Now my hope is that you will understand why I wrote my story. It was for the children that persevered through the storms toward the rainbow on the other side. To cover up their story is to contribute to the denial—and that I will not do.

If your child shows post-institutional behavior issues, I ask you not to feel anger towards their caretakers. Most of the time, it is the circumstances of not enough money to staff the orphanage properly that brings them to exhaustion and desperation.

When you prepare to bring your child home, a few words of advice would be to try to emulate their world as much as possible for the first few weeks or longer. [Editorial note: this does not mean you are emulating the orphanage environment...rather, it means that you are try to reduce your child's sensory overload.]

Don’t fluff up their cribs/beds with fancy bedding and toys. The cribs in the orphanage rarely have much more than a sheet on top of a bamboo pad in the summer, or a scant comforter in the winter—and usually no toys or stuffed animals to distract.

If they feel the need, let them hoard their food until they finally know it is not necessary—don’t take it away or lose patience. Leave snacks around for them until they know they will be fed at regular intervals.

Be prepared to stay in their line of sight for weeks and perhaps months before they truly understand you won’t leave them.

Respect some boundaries for affection—if your child was in foster care, they may love to be kissed or hugged. However, if your child was not in foster care, more than likely they will need time to adjust to another human wanting to touch them repeatedly. [Editorial note: children need physical contact. This only means that with some kids you may need to take the hugs and kisses slow...it doesn't mean that you avoid touching your child. Human beings--and especially post-institutionalized kids--need touch to thrive.]

Make bath time a calming, soothing time without too much stimulation (have the bath ready so they don’t hear the sound of rushing water). In my experience, bath time (and haircut day) has always been traumatic in the orphanage. Perhaps bring your child in to observe while you or their siblings bathe with a big smile on your face and a calming demeanor.

Don’t expect your baby or toddler to like your family pet much or at all. In China, it is rare to treat animals as part of the family and young Chinese children can often be scared or impatient with animals. They will warm up eventually but be careful not to force the relationship!

Infants from the orphanage are not accustomed to silence while they are sleeping. The baby rooms are usually very chaotic and full of many sounds. When your child comes home, a good way to help them adjust to sleeping in a strange place would be to play music or a television in their sleeping rooms. I believe silence may frighten them.

Air conditioning could make your child sick until they grow accustomed to it. I learned this the hard way—and future visits with my foster daughter had me sleeping with her in the guest room under a fan with the air conditioning turned off. In the summer, it makes for a miserable night, but is what they are used to. That goes for winter, too. Most Chinese foster parents rarely use their heat and the orphanage is frigid. Go lightly with the heat until your child adjusts.

Now for my most important advice of all.

Please do not try to bury your child’s negative memories with false fantasies of what you hope would have been their life before you. Let them have their memories, talk them through when they can, and learn to get through the hurt. Your child may have had a wonderful orphanage or a loving foster family—but they may have lived through something that you can never imagine. To hide or skip over those emotions, fears or resentment could cause more damage to an already fragile spirit. Seek counseling if you think it necessary, but take off your rose-colored glasses and open yourself up to the harsh reality of third-world orphanages.

I wish your children long lives of love, protection, and success. You are blessed to have them—so treasure your gifts.


A review of this book may be found here.


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