Transitioning Families

Imagine being eight, and getting a brand new family, language, and home. The people seem kind enough — even though nothing looks or feels familiar — but when they stare at you, speaking words you don’t know, you just want to run and hide.

And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. - Matthew 18:5They could be saying something as simple as “Hey, do you want to take a walk?” but it sounds like total gibberish. So you try to glean whatever you can through context, facial expressions, and hand gestures. At first it’s a bit exciting and fun, but then your mind starts to hurt. You crave your own language. You want someone to throw you a lifeline — to phone a friend or even ask a stranger — just to hear people speaking in your own tongue. When it starts to feel overwhelming, you find yourself retreating to a place of familiarity in your brain, where everyone knows how to say your name the way you’ve always heard it.

But over time, certain words and phrases become familiar again. You realize that every night before dinner, you are sent to the bathroom with a gesture of ringing your hands together. Eventually you piece together those hand motions with the words “wash” and “hands.” The tricky part is that you’re really learning two things at once: another language AND another culture. Your new family is adopting you, while you adopt the way they speak and the way they function.

It’s a process, all this transition business. Like that food processor in the head, international adoption messes with a child’s brain. We know there is debate in many circles about whether it does more harm than good. However, after watching over dozens of adoptions, we have no regrets — at least not for these kids. We’ve watched children be saved from horrific abuse, total poverty, and absolute neglect. We’ve witnessed their lives being redeemed, as they experience unconditional love and acceptance for the first time in their lives, not to mention full bellies, beds and pillows, and schools with textbooks and technology. We’ve recognized that, for these children, none of those benefits were being realized in their home country.

Even though the food processor of adoption makes things messy, it has the ability to create a beautiful and healthy family… one that is refined and made stronger throughout the transitions.

Are there challenges along the way? Of course. The most basic need for most of us is to be understood. It may take months, if not years, for these kids to be able to express themselves and, as a result, accurately understood. But it can — and does, thankfully — happen… eventually. So when you meet a family like this (or hear about one, maybe through us? :)), at various stages of understanding, would you offer some prayers of encouragement and grace? Who knows, those might be just what is needed for that person or family to make it through one more day in their food processor of transition.

Part of our work with FIT Nicaragua is to support families during the transition of adoption, to help ensure the future success of the new family unit. We need your help to continue this work. Please consider a monthly donation to enable us to offer these services to adopting families free of charge.

*If you’re interested in learning Spanish, we’d like to suggest our favorite learning method: personal, one-to-one, online tutoring through Virtual Lingos. The best part is that you’re helping employ Nicaraguans in the process!