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Adopting an Older Child: The Joys and the Challenges (part 3) . . .

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

A couple of years ago I was interacting with a young man who had been adopted at age ten. I asked him what were some of his biggest life challenges connected with being adopted at an older age. He responded, “I had a big problem with people telling me what to do and when to

do it. I grew up doing what I thought I had to, at a time when I wanted (to do it). When I was adopted, I was no longer in control of myself or my brother (who was adopted with him). I had to listen to someone else tell me what to do and what not to do.

This created a lot of issues for me growing up. I thought that by going against what my parents wanted me to do, I would them a lesson. In reality, it taught me many things later down the road.”

For any of you parents who adopted older children—especially those who five or six years old and older—does this young man’s story sound familiar? I’ll bet for some of you it does! For those of us who have adopted older children, we soon learn that they often come to us with ingrained ideas and behavioral patterns, many of which are forged amidst surviving traumatic experiences. The very damaging behaviors they may bring with them into our home—things like hoarding food, habitual lying and temper outbursts—may well have been the same behaviors that helped them survive in their original homes.

How do we address these behaviors? We must help our children arrive at a point where they can feel safe without having to display these behaviors. Parents, what I’m about to say may sound like a broken record, but it takes time—often a lot of time, patience and creativity on your part. For instance, if a child has a food hoarding problem, you can begin to address this by allowing her to have regular, healthy snacks between meals, and even allowing her to keep a healthy snack in her bedroom at night. This can help her to know that there will always be enough food. If your child is throwing one of those marathon fits of rage, a good question to ask him once he calms down is “Son, what do you need?” For the traumatized child, fits of rage are often based in the his/her fear of losing control, which is his biggest fear. Asking the child this question and helping him to talk about his feelings can help him to put words to what he is really feeling inside.

More to come on this topic soon . . .

Image by Se Janko Ferlic on Unsplash

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