November is National Adoption Month. All across the country families will welcome children into their forever families. Excitement. Nerves. Celebrations.
All good things!
For some children, like our son, they will have already been living with their forever family maybe as a foster kid. So it won’t be too much of an adjustment.
For others, their adjustment is abrupt. One day they are in a foster home, a group home, or an orphanage. The next day they have a forever family of their own! Quite a change.
After the excitement and parties are over, life goes on. House rules. Homework. Hanging with friends.
And dealing with trauma. Adoption doesn’t heal the trauma.
Anyone who has adopted a child knows that they aren’t miraculously healed just because they are now a part of your loving forever home.
The residual effects of abuse, neglect, abandonment, etc. continue to manifest in different ways through different phases of life.
Sensory challenges, impulsivity, fear responses, hyper-activity, and on and on.
Our son who just turned five struggles with all of these even though he has been in our family for over four years now. And we adopted him about three years ago.
Even though many days his behavior exhausts us (maybe it’s because we are in our 50s!), we are pretty used to it. We see the progress as he exhibits healthy attachment, better self-control, and proof of feeling more safe.
Yet, in many social settings he still gets overly excited or fearful and struggles with controlling his body. And we watch other parents begin to move away. Slowly. Taking their kids with them. “Why don’t you play over here little Johnny.”
We act like we don’t notice or that it doesn’t bother us, but I want to say, “Wait! He is doing so much better!” “He really is a great kid!”
What is One Important Thing an Adopted Child Needs?
He needs friends who will stick by him.
I understand parents who pull away. I really do. But I so love the ones who see past the behavior and see the child. We have been blessed with several friends who do just that. They see all of our son’s good traits in spite of his struggles.
No one does or should allow any bad behavior. But our son needs friends who will stick with him even when he acts poorly. Our son needs healthy, positive social encounters. This helps him overcome his fear, anxiety, and lack of self-control.
What does it look like to stick by a child who has a trauma background and exhibits challenging behavior?
- Don’t respond with fear.
- Take time to know their story. Knowing a person’s story leads to compassion for that person.
- Understand that the behavior is trauma and fear based. Most kids from a hard place aren’t rebellious troublemakers. They are reacting in a way any of us, at any age, would without some help to do otherwise.
- Learn from the parent how to interact with their child. The child’s parents probably have become experts in the field of helping a child learn how to regulate, make better choices, handle fear, etc.
- Know that connecting with the child helps in their healing process. Connection empowers a child from a hard place giving them great odds to heal and learn how to cope with trauma in a healthy way.
Next time you see that child with the outlandish, over-the-top behavior, please don’t run the other way. If you have the opportunity to befriend them and their family, that’s what they really need.
Have a thought or question? Please share in the comment section or on Facebook and Twitter to invite others to the conversation.
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