#60 Healing versus changing behavior

April 26, 2013 at 6:14 am | Posted in Adoption differences, adoption issues, adoption loss, Adoptive parenting do's, Identity issues | Leave a comment
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Imagine a young child has had a scare of some kind.  Perhaps an older child has intimidated or hurt him.  Do we immediately sit the child down and lecture him on toughening up and learning how to take care of Little Chinese girl posed for a photo shoothimself?  I think the natural thing to do is to hold and comfort your child until he calms down and then reassure him that he is safe and loved.  Any lesson in self-defense can come later.

Many adopted children need help in healing their wounds before their behavior will change.  They can’t intellectually make changes when they are emotionally frightened. Their emotional development and their chronological age don’t always match up.  Parents can help this discrepancy if they are in a ‘healing mode’ rather than a ‘change behavior mode’.  Anyone can change their behavior on the surface if forced to, but that doesn’t mean that certain behavior will never happen again.  Our children need to have their motivating issues healed and then, the behaviors will stop.  The cause of disruptive behaviors is removed.

Some observers say that adopted children can overreact to life.  That judgment comes from someone who has not walked in the shoes of an adoptee.  For many years we expected certain behaviors, and under great duress, we got those behaviors.  But, our children weren’t healed to the point that their behavior was now natural.  It was learned behavior.  The cause never went away. Now, however, adoptees are being listened to.  They are telling us how vast and deep their loss can be and how it affects their lives.  Many, of course, feel unlovable because how can anyone love them if their own birth mother didn’t love them enough to keep them.  On an intellectual level, we know how this happens.  It’s hard for a child to understand, however.  It has nothing to do with the value of the child, but he can’t understand this, so he faces each day thinking he is an unlovable individual.

I’ve heard many adult adoptees say they married someone they didn’t like only because they knew no one else would marry them.  The marriage rate for adoptees is lower than the rest of the population and the divorce rate is higher – many feel they can’t expect anyone to love them enough to stay with them when their own birthmother didn’t.  Intellectually, we can all explain to adoptees where their thinking is flawed.  How many would believe us?  These are individuals who were never healed of their loss and abandonment issues.  They may have changed their behaviors to fit in, but their heads and hearts were never healed enough to see themselves as whole.

Adoptive parenting is so much different than biological parenting.  Neither job is easy and, as parents, we often don’t feel confident in our methods.  We should strive to interpret behavior and sensitively listen to clues from our children, then we just might eventually end up on the right path.  At least we will have our eyes and our hearts open to see and feel our children’s unusual needs.  We need to accept and love our children as they are.  Our job is to prepare them to cope with life.  For too long a time adoptive parents didn’t help them cope with their past.  We didn’t know how, fortunately now we do.


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