2 out of 4 of our kids are adopted. We adopted one when he was 14 months old and the other when she was 14 days old. We feel absolutely blessed to have been able to adopt, and we love our children. We see post-adoption behaviors/attachment “issues” in both of them, but they present themselves in very different ways. One is far worse than the other (though the one that is healthier does not care about charming other people–and so that child will throw a fit in front of anyone, and therefore *appears* to be worse off than the other one…)…
I want to write about this subject because people are adopting, and their agencies are not telling them what they will face. Over the last year+ we have spent over $30,000 to heal our children. Yup. We had no clue, when we took out debt to adopt, that later we would be spending that much money to heal the early wounds of our kids. I’m not saying that we would go back and change anything. I’m just saying, families need to know these things before they adopt…My hope is to make people aware.
I want to write about the behaviors that many adoptive families are seeing behind closed doors, because too many of these people have friends & family who do not believe them. Many of these kids are superficially charming and skilled at lying. False allegations are made by friends, family and onlookers who “don’t get” the kinds of behaviors that are going on (and they blame it on the parenting). It happens to far too many families. It happened to us, too. It’s devastating. It lets you know who you can/can’t trust around your family pretty quickly–but it’s harsh. I’m hoping to help the onlookers realize what is going on, and why it’s not the parents’ fault.
I want to write about the parenting strategies that work for the behaviors that are typically seen. Strategies that work for “healthy” kids do not work and sometimes backfire. We have learned that we have to parent our “healthy” kids totally differently than we parent our unattached kids. Giving the same kinds of freedoms to all of our kids, for example, would result in making our unattached kids much sicker (as we’ve learned the hard way, unfortunately). We’ve learned some techniques that work, and we’re constantly learning more, and I want to share them with you.
I want to share with you the resources that we have found to be useful. We’ve been to camps, to an “Intensive” at Nancy Thomas’s ranch in Colorado, we’ve read books, we’ve gone to a Parenting with Love & Logic seminar, we go to weekly attachment therapy and neurofeedback, we have had brain scans done, we do neurological repatterning every day (or at least we try for every day!), and we’re using therapeutic parenting skills. Some of the professionals we’ve seen tell us that if our kids don’t totally heal, it won’t be because of anything we haven’t done for them. We’re giving them an awesome environment to heal in–now it’s their choice, this is where their free will kicks in. And there’s no guarantee, unfortunately.
I want to help other parents so that they understand the root of the behaviors. The behaviors that we’ve seen (and have heard about) are so “in your face,” directed at the mom and the dad (usually mostly the mom), hurtful, painful (sometimes physically), psychotic, and hard to live with. If we remind ourselves (over and over and over each day) that the reason they behave this way is because they’re scared, it will make parenting these kids a more bearable job. They feel unloved (no matter how much you actually love them, they are immune to love until they heal). They feel worthless. Mostly, though, they’re scared. One of our kids’ brain scan showed “fight or flight” going on constantly, even while the child looked totally calm. That same child has fears about *everything* and dreams up all kinds of scary scenarios. They’re scared. It’s hard to see that when they’re screaming at you, breaking things intentionally, etc….But we “trauma mommas” have to constantly remind ourselves, they’re scared. What do you do when your child just had a nightmare and they’re scared? Scoop them up and hug them, and pray with them, and remind them that they’re safe, right? It’s what we have to do with our kids when they’re raging, screaming, turning violent and acting psychotic, too. I don’t know about you, but I constantly have to remind myself what the root of the behavior is, otherwise it’s hard to want to pick up and cuddle a screamer. I want to remind all of you, as I remind myself. I want to encourage you in loving on your kiddos and reminding them that they’re loved, even when you don’t feel like loving them because they’ve acted so destructively…
I don’t intend to vent about my children here. This isn’t the place for that. Life is hard with a child who isn’t attached. There’s no doubt about that. But I love my children and hope that they will heal. More than anything, I want to share with you the hope that I have for my children. Because of that (and to preserve my relationship with the children God has entrusted to me), I don’t intend to share specific behaviors that a specific child did. I’d like to get anonymous scenarios from other families–or I’ll talk about behaviors in general & how we deal with them.
It is my hope that, in writing about this, I can encourage those of you who have adopted or who are considering adoption. Some of you may have biological kids with the same kinds of behaviors–you are not alone! I meet so many parents who have children who act like kids with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). Hang in there, you can do this! That’s the message that I want to give to all of you, over and over. You’re strong enough. You’re patient enough. You can do this. And your child can choose to get better, because your child has a safe environment with YOU!