Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Behaviors in the Beginning of Adoption

Common behaviors of children newly adopted internationally usually reflect the child’s sense of confusion and loss. A few children, easy-going and good-natured (or carefully guarding their feelings from others), seem to express these feelings openly in such behaviors only when in stressful situations, like when overtired or sick. Other children seem to explode with emotions and behaviors, at times out of control. From time to time, most parents encounter at least of few of these behaviors as their children adjust to the new environment of home and family.

Please note that these typical behaviors are generally related to the stresses of moving from familiar territory into the unknown of an adoptive family. Although some of these may in addition be related to a child’s inexperience with attachments or more serious attachment issues, at the beginning of a placement it’s not always easy to tell. When these symptomatic behaviors persist over time, especially when combined with other behaviors related to attachment problems and resistant to parental interventions, then an assessment needs to be done and professional quidance considered.

Typical for children new in families and adopted internationally
  • Constant crying; either hypersensitive to injuries or inappropriately stoic
  • Poor eating patters (or overeating, gorging, hoarding)
  • Listless, withdrawn, sleeping a lot (or disturbed sleep);sense of       shock  
  • Impulsive; frantic activity; controlling; acting out, raging or angry behavior      
  • Overly clingy, refuses to separate; or indiscriminate with affection
  • Resistant, indifferent, ambivalent, confused about parent interactions:
  • Poor or limited eye contact
  • Poor or resistance to clinging, holding, cuddling
  • Limited response to parental play, interactions, smiles
  • The behaviors listed above on loss, if they continue over time and despite intervention; especially poor eye contact, resistance to parents’ touch/attention
  • Developmental delays; speech and language delays; incessant chatter
  • Tactile defensiveness (flinching, startling when touched)
  • Poor sucking response; poor crying response
  • Inappropriately demanding, clingy; indiscriminately affectionate
  • Indifference to others; or lack of discrimination between parents and strangers
  • Self abuse (head banging, biting, etc.); destructive without remorse
  • Extreme need to be in control; tantrums, raging; manipulation, lying
  • Lack of impulse controls and social cues; continual anger
Attachment and International Adoption. From Choices and Challenges in International Adoption by Joan McNamara ©2009

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