Mom About to Adopt Asks for Free-Range Advice

Hi Readers! Here’s a note from a soon-to-be mom with a request for ideas (and a tiny dig at me, but what the hey). The boy she and her husband are adopting is three. Congrats to her and her expanding family! —  L.

Dear Free-range Kids: I like the idea of Free-Range Kids (although I’m not totally comfortable with some of Lenore’s extremes), and I would like some advice: My husband and I will soon be adopting a young boy.  After years of miscarriages and failed adoption plans, I’m terrified to let this boy, who hasn’t even come to live with us yet, out of my sight for even a few minutes.  I’m especially nervous for this particular boy, who has been abused and neglected.  How can I moderate my crazy-protective response into something that will allow him to have a regular life?

Let’s help! And send them our best wishes!

34 Responses

  1. I think this is a case for working with professionals on a variety of levels. Based on his history, your son needs to feel safe with you, and that he can trust you. Part of that will be letting him know you trust him, but I think free-range is only an element of that.

    Best of luck, and I hope your new, larger family brings all of you much joy!

  2. My opinion about Free-Range is not that you just let the child run wild and do whatever he feels like doing at any given time. Free-Range is about teaching your child to be a functioning, intelligent and successful human being. It is about fostering trust. Trust that your child will do the right thing. Trust that your child will look out for his own safety. Trust that you will do what you say and will be the support the child needs.

    Free Range doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. You’re adjusting to a new, difficult set of circumstances. This child needs love and care and doting attention to overcome the terrible circumstances of his short life.

    If it were me, I would start slowly. For now, just focus on love and building a relationship. A 3 year old under any circumstances still needs a good amount of supervision, so don’t fret that his day doesn’t look Free-Range yet. You’ll get there.

    With love, support and trust, a Free Range child can flourish naturally. Trust your instincts and take it one day at a time. When he’s ready, he’ll let you know that he’s ready for a little freedom.

  3. First, best wishes! Second, until that boy is legally and 100% yours, please be careful. The foster care system does not believe in the free range ideals. What is normal and right for bio parents is deemed unacceptable and hazardous to a foster kid and might get him yanked from your care.

    Fight the system after he is legally yours!

    Second, read the advice given to the mom earlier this week about being more free range after she knows someone who was abducted. Go slow and steady.

    Third, listen to your new son! He might need contact for a while, he might not. Foster kids come with a whole set of baggage that is unique to each kid. Your son may have been frightningly free range because no one cared for him and he was the grown-up or he may have been stuck in a closet. I know one kid who walked blocks to the grocery store at 7 because no one else was going to. Although that is “free range” that is not KID. Each foster kid is different. Listen. Love. Care.

  4. We adopted our two older children. They were both diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). While I now give them much more free reign (I was once yelled at by a “well meaning” woman at a park for daring to allow my children to climb trees), when they first came to us I had to watch them very carefully. Some RAD kids will literally wonder off with anyone, sometimes without that person even knowing that they have acquired a tiny follower. Personally, I would ere on the side of caution at first. Get to know your son. My son who was 20 months when he came to us was very clingy and needed to literally be on me most of the day, but it really helped us to bond. Just like after birthing a baby, it takes time to get to know an adopted child too. For example, my oldest daughter had some serious abandonment issues and has told me straight out that she does not want to be left at home alone until she is a bit older. She knows that she isn’t ready. There is no reason for me to force her so that I can be more free-range. To me, raising free-range kids is not holding them back when they are ready to spread their wings, but it also isn’t pushing them off a cliff when they don’t know how to fly either.

  5. You are experiencing the same fears and concerns of any new parent. Not until you actually have a child do you realize that they don’t break that easily. Good parenting is a continuous, adaptive process. Build love and friendship but, maintain firm boundaries.

    When setting boundaries, constantly assess why you are establishing the boundary where you are. I’m constantly readjusting because my initial reaction is to be overly restrictive. It’s a training process for parents, too!

    Good luck to you and kudos for giving a kid a new, loving home.

  6. So far I have read good advice here. I am also the mother of a son we adopted when he was 15 months old. He is now 11. He was my first child and I didn’t want him out of my sight. I felt strongly that for the first several months I not leave him with anyone but my husband. I did that and then eventually felt that it was ok to be away from him.

    I also made a promise to his birth mother not to leave him in a car alone for any reason. It was right after a horrific news story about a toddler being dragged to death when his mother’s car was stolen and she wasn’t able to get to him and get completely out of the car seat in time. I completely honored that promise, even though later I didn’t think it was quite such a danger.

    I remember distinctly feeling as I looked at him that there were so many possibilities of things that could happen that I could never protect him from them all. I think that’s when my free-range parenting style began. It dawned on me that I could only do what I could do and have to trust in God/fate/whatever you believe in to keep him safe.

    I took baby steps and kept taking them. Now my son is a very independent 11-year-old who got picked up by the cops last year for walking to soccer practice alone (a whole mile from my house).

    Do what you think is the right thing. As much as I love the philosophies of free-range parenting, no parenting style is going to be perfect for everyone. Take what you like from each one and make it work for your family.


  7. Congratulations!

    I have no advice, because I am not in your situation, however I want you to know that there is no one-size-fits-all parenting philosophy. I comment here; I also comment on an attachment-parenting blog and yet again on a gentle discipline community. I used to think I would homeschool, now I’m all for public schools!

    We learn so much from our kids, and I’m sure you will learn from yours, too.

    Might you feel judged? Yes. As a mother, I constantly feel that I could be doing a little bit better in one area or another, like letting them be more independent, being more empathetic, being more gentle, having firmer limits, etc. And I have relatively easy bio kids whose personalities I know well!

    You can’t win them all, so don’t worry about being anything other than THIS CHILD’S loving mom. If you can manage loving and hopeful for at least half the waking hours, not to mention free-range, pat yourself on the back and call it a win.

    Again, congratulations, and welcome to the world of Mommy Anxiety. 😀

  8. I’m going to echo most of the advice above. Free-ranging is about knowing your children, their limitations, their abilities, their personalities, etc. Without knowing this there is a significant risk of letting a child wander.

    Adopting means that you don’t have that knowledge yet. Give it time, and when you know him, you can begin letting go.

  9. Simple answer…don’t be a helicopter parent. It’s bad enough that the child had been neglected and abused, and although you might think showering him with love and over protectiveness will be beneficial it won’t. The over protectiveness part that is. As stated many times already, your fears (whether you realize it or not) is picked up by your children. They don’t know why, they just sense it. Mentally this affects them negatively, especially if they don’t understand. Over time, this can affect them emotionally. Because the parents are the one they look to for support and guidance, they automatically assume that being fearful is ok.

    Now I can’t say nothing will ever happen to your child, because things will. ie. fall, get cut, get bruised, a bump on the head, etc… The key thing is to not dwell on the fears of things happening, but concentrate on how you are going to educate your child in awareness and avoidance. Then let them experience on their own. That’s all we can ever do that is consistent and reliable. Because we cannot always be there 24/7. And parents shouldn’t even try to. This will only amplify their already growing fears, stressing them out even more, which affects their children. If you really love your children, don’t fear for them and do not treat them like they are fragile porcelain dolls. They are growing human beings that need to be nurtured and educated at a young age, so that they become strong individuals (mentally, emotionally and physically) as they get older. These will have a huge impact on their adolescent and adult lives.

  10. Best advice I received as a new parent was to try and say “be careful” to your toddler more often then you say “no”.

  11. My son is also adopted. For what it’s worth, here is my parenting manifesto and how I am raising my kid:

    1) Make sure the kid knows what s/he is doing with regard to traffic safety, etc. It’s never too early to teach the rules of the road.

    2) Make sure the kid knows to look for suspicious behaviors, not at whether s/he knows someone or not.

    3) Train the kid to respond to the comments that so many people seem to make as if s/he can’t hear them. You know, the half-whispers clearly intended to give the kid the idea that s/he is doing something wrong without the busybody in question actually having to have the cojones for a direct encounter.

    4) KNOW THE LAW and DO NOT let any cop, social worker, busybody, etc. bully you. You would be amazed how quickly people crumple when you provide solid, well-researched facts.

    5) I read about this in Lenore’s book: Give the kid a letter to carry with them at all times to show anyone who asks. The letter my son carries reads as follows:

    “To whom it may concern,

    Thank you very much for caring enough to check on Logan. He is showing you this letter because he has our permission to be outside and because he is perfectly OK. He has been carefully taught how to be safe outdoors and has demonstrated that he knows where he is, how to cross streets safely, what to do if
    something goes wrong, 9-1-1, etc. He is also carrying a cell phone with a GPS locator so we always know where he is, with all the contacts he needs on speed dial. IF HE NEEDS HELP, HE WILL ASK FOR IT and it is wonderful to know that there are good people like you for him to turn to for assistance when needed.

    His being outdoors is not in violation of any law. Also, per the latest government data (NHTSA and USDOJ), a child outdoors is about 40 times less likely to be killed than a child in a car. This may seem hard to believe but those are the facts.

    If you have any additional questions or concerns, or if Logan is misbehaving in any way, please call Anthony at (415)xxx-xxxx.

    Otherwise, thank you again for making sure he is OK and please let him go about his business without any further delay.


    6) KNOW THE FACTS. By any measure, this world is a far(!) safer place than when were were kids who were given all of these freedoms. The reason you hear about kidnappings, etc. on the news is BECAUSE THEY ARE SO RARE. If 50 airliners crashed every hour, you would not hear of it on the news… but that would not mean that flying is safe. The fact that most any aviation mishap makes global news is a testament to the safety of flying. Good news does not sell, but bad news is news because it is, well, news. Think about this: With rare(!!) exception, the stuff you hear about on the news is simply not a viable threat to normal daily life.

    7) Before Logan ever came home, I looked his mom in the eye and said, “He is going to get dirty. He is going to get hurt. He is going to get stuck. And WE HAVE TO LET HIM. We have to let him sit in the tree for a while until he figures out how to get down. We have to let him tromp in the puddles, fall in the lake that has more duck poop than water in it, and even let him get into situations that could break an arm. We have to teach him how the world works and not try to make the world artificially safe for him with “baby-proofing.” (Although the poisons should be kept secured.)

    8) Buy him as many outdoors toys that emphasize balance, coordination, problem-solving, etc. Scooters, skates, skateboards, balls, etc. When the time came, he learned to ride a bicycle sans training wheels in AN HOUR AND A HALF, and he rode from San Francisco to Sausalito with me just 5 days later. His newest passion is the RipStik (check it out at and he is not even 9 yet.

    9) Talk to them as adults from Day One. NO BABY TALK or dumbing things down.

    10) Expose them to as many different cuisines and spices as possible. Feed them fresh fruits and vegetables of all sorts from Day One and they will grow up begging for organic berries and broccoli while shunning McDonald’s. They will also request food from around the world. Recenly, Logan asked for shepherd’s pie and aloo ghobi for lunch–two completely different cuisines in the same meal!

    11) Teach him that people are fundamentally good and willing to help as needed. Make him ask for what he wants at stores, restaurants, the barber, etc. etc.

    12) STAND FIRM in the face of all opposition.

    13) Tell EVERYONE what you are up to. The principal, the daycare, the teacher, the neighbor, etc. Be LOUD, PROUD, and PROACTIVE.

    14) Realize that your single solitary job as a parent is to make yourself functionally obsolete and that you have until he is 18 to do it. The saying holds, if you love something set it free.

  12. Start out small so you can get to know your know new child start out with something like taking a shower when he is up. Does he watch tv or play with his toys nicely until your done does it cause trouble or does he get upset this will give you a chance to see where he is at.

  13. My wife & I brought our son home from Russia in early 2008 at 21 months old. He’s our first (and likely, only) child and like others, we didn’t want him out of our sight at first.

    But in the little more than 2 years since, his self-confidence and independence have steadily grown. Sure, we were all very clingy at first – sometimes more than I was even prepared for – but thanks to encouragement and patient repetition, he now he takes great pride in doing things for and by himself. He does still have days when he reverts to being very clingy, but I think that’s more restlessness than anything else at this point.

    One thing that we believe made a tremendous difference is that we enrolled him in a full-time daycare very early on so he went from a very social orphanage environment to a similarly social (but much bleak) daycare environment. This daycare is highly structured – really much more like pre-K than a babysitting service.

    And we were terrified of the language barrier (coming from Russia) so we began teaching him baby sign language even before we left Moscow. We were so worried that he might lag behind other kids, we sorta overcompensated. We talk to him in a very adult fashion and continuously. As a result, his language skills are better than most kids even a year or two older.

    I think his better than average social & language skills really help him establish independence.

    Slightly off-topic, we also severely limit the amount of TV our son watches. Our thinking is that boredom isn’t a negative – it promotes imaginative, independent play.

  14. We adopted our youngest son Igor when he was 3-1/2. We already had twin almost-4-year-olds. We have no idea what his first few years were like at the orphanage, but it’s all he ever knew. After we adopted him, we were encouraged to give him as much attention as we could to encourage the bonding process – lots of holding, cuddling, reading, time time time time. He was never put in daycare, and we homeschool all three. I’d encourage you to also do whatever you need to to encourage the bonding process.

    He’s always seemed very independent, but is very clingy, especially to his dad. Even today, at age 12, he doesn’t feel “right” when the whole family isn’t home together when he goes to sleep at night. With regards to free-range parenting style – we’ve allowed him to have a “say” in that. I’ve never made any of my kids do something they’re not comfortable with.

    So, when he wanted to ride his bike around the neighborhood alone several years ago, I swallowed hard and said “go for it.” Well – you would have thought I’d just gotten him his first apartment! That was just the taste of freedom he needed at just the right time. Now he wants to ride to the grocery store without me and do my shopping for me!

    For us – the freedoms he desired came later rather than earlier. There’s no need to encourage your newly adopted son to go free-range before he is ready – he’ll most likely be battling feelings of past abandonment – and won’t be able to really verbalize any of that.

    So, ok, enough of my babbling – the key is don’t be overprotective – but you probably don’t want to leave him at the playground just yet. Do what you need to for as long as you need to for him to feel secure and loved in his new family. I may take a lot longer than you think – it did for us. Just because young children are independent and social doesn’t necessarily mean they feel secure and loved – i know, I’ve been there.

  15. Do it the way Lenore advises in her book. Teach him the skills to be confident and use baby steps to slowly work towards the big stuff. If the kid is three, you won’t want him to go to the park alone anyway.

    Teach him how to safely cross the road, how to make friends in the neigbourhood. The rest will come naturally.

  16. I too am an adoptive parent. Since it sounds like your little one is old enough to be affected by the disruptions in his life, I would seek out ideas from other adoptive parents whose kids have a similar background. I recommend the forums at such as the special needs forum. There is such a wealth of information out there, and even if you think you will never need it, it will help to keep it in the back of your mind.

    Someone above mentioned RAD. From what I have read, this is an example of a situation where you actually need to be more controlling since that is what that particular child needs. It’s not true for all adoptees, but you want to keep your eyes open and be aware. Some kids whose past lives have been “out of control” have an extreme and unhealthy (not age appropriate) need to be in control. Letting them be in control actually allows them to keep a distance instead of bonding with their parents. And bonding is the most important thing your child will need. Without a good bond your little one won’t be able to grow into the level of responsibility needed for a FRK lifestyle. So my advice is to stay close to the adoption community and try to be aware of what YOUR child needs.

    Having said all of that, I am a very free-range mom in most respects. My 3.5yos (adopted at appx. 1yr) have a level of freedom and responsibility that surprise most people. And they seem to be thriving on it. So I don’t mean to imply that adopted kids shouldn’t be free-range. Only that a few other things need to be ensured first.

  17. @Anthony Hernandez: lol. We must have attended the same school. The School of Life. Majoring in “Hard Knocks 101”.

    @kimrene: “Do what you need to for as long as you need to for him to feel secure and loved in his new family. I may take a lot longer than you think – it did for us. Just because young children are independent and social doesn’t necessarily mean they feel secure and loved – i know, I’ve been there.”

    Just remember “for HIM to feel secure”, not the mother or father. It’s not about them, it’s about the child. A lot helicopter parents get in their heads that their over protectiveness is for their child, but in reality it’s more to make themselves feel better.

    I don’t quite agree with you with “Just because young children are independent and social doesn’t necessarily mean they feel secure and loved”. Including myself, my siblings, my nephew and other independent and social kids I know, were very independent and social because we we felt loved and cared for. Because the way we were raised, to be advised, learn on our own, and be praised or commended for accomplishing our goals, we felt proud that our parents thought highly of us. There’s nothing more than praises from your parents to feel loved by them. Not saying your parents didn’t bring you up right, but there’s got to be something wrong when you don’t feel secure and loved by your parents. And it’s hard to be independent and social when your insecure and feel unloved. That can only be accomplished if it’s faked and used to compensate what is lacking. Which doesn’t make it real independence and confidence.

  18. >>>>I don’t quite agree with you with “Just because young children are independent and social doesn’t necessarily mean they feel secure and loved”.<<<<

    @ Eric S. – it would be more accurate for you to say my statement doesn't reflect your personal experiences. My statement is fact with regards to my own son, and with regards to many other children adopted from orphanages.

  19. I think almost every parent when they first hold their child in their arms goes through a phase of “not letting the child out of my sight”. When my 1st was born, I stayed home with her and was there for her for 4 months until I was ready to leave her alone for a couple hours with a babysitter.

    You need to feel confidence in yourself as a parent, confident in them as child and then start exploring your relationship together and then, the world around you.

    They will tell you when they want to have some space. When they do, give it to them, provided you’ve shown them all the ways to be safe in whatever it is they want to do.

    GL! YOu’ll do wonderfully.

  20. My advice is to do your best, as lame as it sounds.

    The child is your child, but he’s his own person. Your history is not his history. As other folks have said, try to keep track of what is good for him, and keep in mind that isn’t always the same as what your background makes you want to do. Not adoption specific advice, but I have no qualifications for that.

    P.S. Congratulations!

  21. I particularly like the advice of EricS.

    My thought would be: don’t let your fears rule you. Follow the book’s recommendations in general, and yet by the same token don’t be surprised if it takes a while for things to settle down before you’re capable with regards to going “cold turkey free range” all at once.

    As far as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), I will say this–our son, 17 months of age, early in his life spent a lot of time in another person’s care, I will leave it at that. There was speculation that he had RAD, because they said he was reluctant to sleep in his own room easily without lots of comfort. However my own gut feeling was that it was all a bunch of hogwash. The minute he was in our care full-time (at about 8 months of age), we went cold-turkey on him; if he cried out at night, tough–he was on his own.

    It took him no time at all to get over any supposed RAD. Since barely 3 days after we assumed total responsibility, he was playing independently in the living room while we did our own thing, and he still does–he takes to any sitter easily (he didn’t when we first got him), all is fine.

    I’m not saying RAD is pscyho-babble (although sometimes I wonder), but rather this–trust your gut, especially if your gut isn’t being overly emotional, frightful or impatient. Within those bounds, your “gut” will usually nail it more often-times than not.

  22. @kimrene: I didn’t say you were lying, or even that you were wrong. What I was saying was if a child doesn’t feel secure or loved, the “independence and social skills” they have would most likely not be genuine. But a shield they have put up to protect themselves. Also, not saying this is wrong, but it’s also not genuine.

    Just like all insecure people, they make themselves into someone who they are not, or pretend that nothing is wrong so that people don’t see their vulnerable side or their flaws. It’s a survival mechanism in our brains.

    You can’t deny that if you feel unloved and insecure, that there has to be something wrong. One would never feel like that unless something is wrong within themselves, or something or someone around them. Genuinely happy kids, don’t feel like they aren’t loved. I’m not a psychologist, but if you’ve been around long enough and you observe everything and everyone around you and how they interact with one another, you learn a lot of what these head analysts studied in school.

    Perhaps you were trying to say that you FELT that you weren’t secure and loved. That’s completely different from BEING not secure and loved. On a lighter note though, I do agree with the rest of your post, and commend you for over coming the need to be over protective. To you and anyone else, never let a day go by that you don’t tell or show your child they are loved. Just don’t smother. Too much any good thing can be bad. 😉

  23. It’s perfectly reasonable, and logical (to me, anyway!) that at the age of 3, your son will need supervision. This doesn’t mean you must watch him sleep, or watch him play indoors or outdoors *all* of the time – outdoor play can be supervised from a safe distance. If he’s involved in the sandbox and content, etc., you’re fine sitting in your lawn chair and reading, or weeding the garden. No one would send a 3 year old child to the park by himself, right?

    At the age of 3, he’ll need the usual reminders to brush his teeth (and if it isn’t an ok job, offer to help him with the tough spots), and so forth. You might help him rinse his hair when it’s bath time/shower time.

    As your son grows, and as you get to know each other and how you/he react to various situations, you’ll know how far from home he can be without either of you panicking.

    Good advice, in previous posts – regular visits with a counselor will be helpful. Your son might have some issues to overcome/deal with/etc. This person can also help you with some of the uncertainties you’re facing.

    Good luck! God Bless.

  24. Honestly? Just listen to your son!

    He will know when he is ready to climb the high slide, and when he is you’ll teach him how to back down the ladder before you let him go up.

    He’ll tell you when he is ready to be home alone (it will sound a LOT like “mooooommmmmm, I ddddooonnnn’tttt WANT to go with you!!!”) and the whining will drive you mad, but you will teach him what he needs to know to be home alone.

    He’ll tell you when he is ready to walk to his friends house alone (probably sounding a lot like a whine again) but if you are listening you will know it is time to teach him how to get there and back again on his own, and what to do if he gets lost.

    Trust yourself. You and he will find you own language, and find your own comfort level for time and distance apart.

    I NEVER thought I’d let my daughter out of my sight in a major US city (we are Canadian), but at 15 she told me she was ready, and after testing that out I decided she was, and off she went. Scared me a bit, for sure, but she did great, stayed safe, and found her way back to the hotel just fine.

    Listen to him, trust him to know himself, and you to know yourself. Listen and talk and teach and you’ll be fine!

    And congratulations on your new addition!

  25. We adopted our son at the same age, and from very similar circumstance. He was abused and neglected, removed from his bio home at 23 months, in foster care for 10 months, and came to us less than two months before his third birthday. He is now 7, and adapting quite well to his free range childhood.

    I don’t know if it’s appropriate to recommend other books here, but I *highly* recommend ‘Love and Logic, Magic for Early Childhood* in your (our) situation. It has very similar principles to Free Range. It taught me how to gain control by giving my child control over as much as possible. I learned how to let him make mistakes, and deal with the consequences.

    Our job as parents, is to raise an adult that can function in the world that exists. It is not to make the world a safe place for a perpetual child.

    Try Love and Logic now, when he’s little. He will learn to think, reason, trust himself, trust you, understand consequences, take responsibility for himself, and make good decisions. All of those skills will serve him well as the next few years pass, and he is ready to start trying on his independence.

    Congratulations on your new family! Cuddle that little one every chance you get. My seven year old, independent, bull headed, tough guy, running back, *big* boy forgot for about an hour tonight that he is too ‘cool’ to cuddle with his Mommy. He wrapped up in a blanket, crawled into my lap, and fell asleep as I ran my hands through his curly hair. It was positively wonderful 🙂

  26. I applaud this woman and her husband for adopting a three year old. However, at the risk of getting flamed, I wonder if she is emotionally ready for it? I know the arguement can be made that no parent is really emotionally ready, but this is an adoption, rather than an unplanned pregnancy. Perhaps she should wait to adopt until she has worked this out with a professional? The last thing an abused and neglected three year old needs is a “terrified” mother with a “crazy protective response.” I am more concerned about him than the mother inthis scenario.

  27. To the mom who is adopting:

    Have you read Lenore’s Free Range Kids book? If not, get a copy and read it.

    You said:
    “After years of miscarriages and failed adoption plans, I’m terrified to let this boy, who hasn’t even come to live with us yet, out of my sight for even a few minutes.”

    If you really mean that, do you have a serious problem trusting others? Would you trust your child for 5 hours in the care of your husband? Your mother? Your father? Your sister? Brother? Aunt? Uncle? Has trust been a problem in your life for many years? If so, there are obviously reasons, and those reasons can be dealt with and neutralized. Find an EFT practitioner to work with and get rid of the fears you harbor because of negative events in your past. Seriously, Google Emotional Freedom Techniques and look at some of the sites.

    Also, you seem to think you have these over-protective fears because of miscarriages and failed adoption plans, but …

    Do you really think if your child came out of your own body that you would be less attached and fearful? I doubt it. I tend to think your emotional upset and fears may have been a factor in your miscarriages and failed adoption plans. (Just a guess.)

    You said:
    ” I’m especially nervous for this particular boy, who has been abused and neglected. How can I moderate my crazy-protective response into something that will allow him to have a regular life?”

    Once again, an EFT practitioner can help this child neutralize his own emotional issues. A procedure related to EFT, called TFT (thought field therapy), has been used successfully with many victims of abuse, and even eliminated PTSD in survivors of the Rwandan Genocide. Children who saw their parents hacked to death were able to erase their trauma and continue their lives as happy children. A website with lots of information is:

  28. I can understand where you are coming from. My wife and I have had 5 children, and lost two of them two a genetic disease (one at 5 years and one at 3 months). Letting go is a tough thing to do when you’ve already lost two.

    I try (not always successfully) to keep these things in mind:

    1) If I *don’t* let them have their freedom, I could be harming them in other ways. Keeping this in mind helps keep my paranoia in check. If I’m only paranoid in one direction, then that’s an unfair fight. I give myself permission to be paranoid in both directions, and, at least for me, they kind of cancel each other out to some extent.

    2) I try to realize that I have to put the past behind me, and in perspective. We can’t live in the past. We can learn from the past, but we can’t live there.

    3) I try to ask other free rangers what is appropriate for a given age. This doesn’t always work out, as often the response is “when they are ready”, but sometimes there are handy tips. It is helpful to know that other people are doing this, and they have good reasons for letting their kid do X, Y, and Z at different ages.

    4) Focus on the method. For my 8-year-old, I’m pretty much open to whatever he wants to do, as long as I can tell him how it should be done. He can walk my 3-year-old across the street, but only if he follows my rules for doing so. The goal is to develop conscienciousness (spelling?) as a habit, so he knows the proper ways to do things. As this becomes more ingrained, he will (hopefully) need me less and less.

    5) Do the baby steps (see Lenore’s book). They are helpful. Come up with some of your own. Soon I’m going to encourage my 8-year-old to walk around the block on his own. I know that’s child’s play for many of you free-rangers, but for our family, that’s a tough step.

  29. Wow! I have really enjoyed reading most of the posts with advice for the mom adopting a child. A few exceptions where it was clear the authors didn’t know the definition of free range, but overall, so many good ideas. And Jonathan, my heart goes out to you, losing two children to a genetic disease. I cannot even imagine what you and your family have gone through. It is a reminder though that the control we think we have as parents over the safety of every moment of our children’s days is truly an illusion.

  30. Remember that Free Range is an active parental response. You are actively setting up situations for the child to take risks. Th active nature requires bumps, bruises, and the occasional setback. These are the things from which lessons are learned. The riding a bike example is commonly cited because it is clear. The key moment is letting go to allow the child to move swiftly down the path on his own. The letting go part is an action not inaction. The routine will be repeated often until success is achieved. Always be encouraging.
    Think in metaphorical terms about that lesson and it will apply to many situations. …and be patient. He is not on a timetable. His past will require that old lessons be unlearned. Remember, we all know you are doing the Lord’s work. Good luck and God bless you.

  31. Without taking away from the other helpful posts. Kudos to Jonathan and Christine.

  32. I thought about this some more today… and there was something else that I wanted to say. It is completely normal to occasionally feel nervous and scared about becoming a parent. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be a good parent. IMO, it means that you really understand what you’re taking on, and that it IS a big deal.I remember rushing to work one morning, and on the drive to work, trying to remember if I had filled my dogs water dish. Thinking ‘I can’t even take care of a DOG- and the state is going to give me a child?’

    You don’t need to have all the answers. No parent does. You will love your child, and take it one day at a time. As your family grows together, you will instinctively want to do what is best for your child. Your issues and nerves will fade into the distance. His confidence will grow, and your confidence in him will grow. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure how to let go and let a 10 year old go free range. You don’t have a 10 year old. By the time your son is 10, you’ll figure it out.

  33. Very interresting discussions. So many deep thoughts and good advises for the new mom who want to adopt a son.

    Christine, I do agree with what you’ve said. And, just to add, I think, better for us to clear our mind and get ourself back to what we have to deal with at this moment, not with something which not even happened yet, such as what we have in our worry or fear. Parent’s love and care for their children is something real, which can be found in action today, not yesterday or tomorrow.

  34. A phrase I use frequently is “I’m not raising children, I’m raising future Adults.”

    When I am veering toward helicopter style behavior I pretend the child isn’t, say, 11 but instead an adult facing his/her boss. How would this go? Would they need to be able to be accountable and handle this on their own, or would they need sure guidelines and hand-holding even then?

    Often, imagining the same behavior/attitude by a college age or older person helps me see that learning coping and self-reliance NOW is a great gift for the future.

    If they were going to be “perpetual puppies” not letting them out of our sight might make sense but every decision we let them try and make FOR THEMSELVES is another block in a strong foundation for a self-reliant and strong future.

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