Many parents have an idea about how many children they would like to have, what family situation they would enjoy best, or whether they would like to adopt children or have their own biological children. No matter how many children you end up with — and what order and sexes that child or children come in — or what family situation is your reality, each situation presents itself with specific joys and challenges.
Twins and Multiples
Twins and other multiples are both easier and more challenging at the age of one than they were as infants. This news is somewhat reassuring, but it's also terrifying. How can it be more challenging?
First, your children are now more active than before, which means they are going in different directions (often at the same time) and needing different things (also often at the same time). Second, their needs may become more individual and therefore more time-consuming. Perhaps your son loves to color and your daughter wants to play with balls. Can you do both at the same time?
If you find yourself overwhelmed with their needs, remember that when it comes to multiples, it takes a village. Find people who will help you out, especially when you want to take your children on outings, when it is almost guaranteed they will run in opposite directions. Also consider finding a regular babysitter or dependable day care so that you can relax alone or so that you can devote time to just one child. If you can, find help with the cleaning and maybe the cooking, too.
Just because they are twins doesn't mean they are the same. Your twins will develop and mature at different rates, including walking and talking. Likewise, they may start to differentiate their likes and dislikes, including foods and activities.
During his first year, your only child probably benefited from getting the sole attention of parents and possibly an entire extended family, but one-year-olds may also benefit from getting to know children their own age. Your child will be fascinated by the things other children do.
It's important to get your child used to other children; eventually he will be going to school and learning how to make friends and coexist with other children. Only children may benefit from day care simply because of the group activities. Beginning to learn how to behave with his peers will help your only child develop emotionally as well as intellectually.
The children may not actually “play” together, so don't be worried if their play dates are not ideal. For one-year-olds, it's not really age appropriate to share or to play with others — everything is “mine.” Just because you are happy your child has a “friend” doesn't mean that he will be happy, too. As you experiment with play dates, you will learn whether your child is naturally social or prefers to play on his own for now.
Despite the sometimes dire predictions of “experts” who claim that children must have two parents in a house in order to do well in school and in life, research has shown that what a child most needs is the unwavering support and love of one person during childhood. The truth is, the quality of parenting is not based on marital status. A single parent may not have a partner, but she may already have what it takes to be a good parent: the commitment and intention to be one.
Single moms sometime believe that being single is a problem and that the solution is to date and find a father for their child, but your child's first need is your attention and not the sense that something is missing from your lives.
If you adopted your baby on or close to her date of birth, chances are you've already read a lot about adoption and infants. But parents who adopt foster children or babies from other countries may find themselves with a one-year-old rather than a newborn.
If that is your situation, recognize that bonding is possible with a child at any age. At the same time, by the age of one, your child will have had time to bond with others or at least to get used to another life. She will need time to get used to new routines, new surroundings, and new people. Don't let fear of not bonding get in the way of the natural progression of adjustment that will occur in your specific adoption situation.
The adjustment period varies from child to child and family to family, based on the adoption situation. As with any new experience and routine, it will take some time for your child to get to know you, to feel safe, and to trust the permanence of his new situation. Every adoption has its own story.
Parents and children tend to first go through a honeymoon period, when everyone feels in love with the new situation. You may give your child lots of gifts and begin to believe that everything will always be perfect. Eventually, as with all situations, experiences, and relationships, there will be a testing phase, when everyone may begin to feel the strain and to test the bonds of the new situation. Getting through this period is important, as this is when true love and real parenting begins. It can take months for a new family to adjust to the rhythms and routines of life together. It often helps parents to attend an adoptive parent support group composed of other families who have adopted a child of about the same age.
If your child has come to you as a one-year-old, do not get rid of all signs of her past. If she's come to you with a favorite toy or blanket, or even pictures of her past life, keep them around. These objects do not mean she will not bond with you. They are a part of her reality, and she will trust you more if you allow her to fully transition from the past to the present.
A newly adopted one-year-old may regress to adjust to the big change in his life. You may have assumed your one-year-old would be walking, or you may have been told that he was toilet-trained (which is a very common promise with children from foreign countries). Instead of feeling disappointed, keep in mind that the stress of change may cause your child to “forget” all he's learned. The more understanding you are about this situation, the more likely it is that your child will assimilate his past with his present.