Q: My 23-month-old son does well with potty training when we're at home. We use a "potty bell" and he goes every 90 minutes or so. When we're away from home, however, he seems clueless. He pees in his car seat about 5 minutes into a trip and simply will not use a potty anywhere but at our home or at my mother's (she watches him one day a week at her place). Would pull-ups be a bad thing to use when we leave the house?
A: As you apparently know, I'm not a fan of pull-ups. Based on lots of feedback from parents, I've concluded that they can actually delay training success (and night dryness). There are exceptions to every general rule, however, and this is one such exception. Pull-ups used very conservatively and situation-specifically during this phase of training should not cause a setback. So do yourself a favor and use pull-ups when you leave the house. Your son's petite-phobia of strange toilets should pass in relatively short order.
Q: We are older parents (65 and 55) who've been doing foster care with babies for some time now. Our own children, 23 and 20, are still living at home. We are now considering adopting. Where a child's ability to successfully bond to a new family is concerned, what age is optimal? We'd love to adopt a teen but are concerned that an older child might form a stronger attachment to his/her peers than to us.
A: The older a child at adoption, the more likely it is that he or she has been bounced from one foster home to another for quite some time and comes with lots of "baggage." If so, that's always a risk factor, but no hard and fast predictions can be made on the basis of age, years in foster care, or any other background variable. Some kids with very "clean" backgrounds have great difficulty as adoptees and some kids with very messy backgrounds have little difficulty at all.
The concept of "bonding" is ill-defined but the term can be loosely used to mean an adopted child's ability to adjust successfully to a new family. In that case, there's no doubt that the chemistry between the adopted child and adoptive parents is the critical factor. Unfortunately, that's difficult if not impossible to predict, which is why most state adoption agencies require a trial period before an adoption can be finalized.
In your case, your age could be a liability, but on the other hand, if you're in good health and live an active lifestyle, that's definitely going to work in your favor.
If you end up adopting a teen, it's going to be important that he or she not have reason to think of you as old fogeys who just aren't "with it." The question then becomes: Can you pull off being cool without compromising your authority?
John Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers parents' questions at rosemond.com.