Families that choose to adopt have a lot of love to offer a child — which is why it sometimes perplexes parents when their newly adopted child seems to push them away or exhibits behavior that most people associate when unhappiness.
If you’re one of those parents: Relax. This is normal. Therapists say that many children exhibit serious behavior problems after they are first adopted — for a number of different reasons.
First, many of these children come from backgrounds that are troubled. They may have been exposed to alcohol or drugs while still in the womb. After they were born, they may have suffered from neglect, abuse, poor nutrition, a lack of mental and physical stimulation and a general lack of structure in their lives. All of those things have been known to contribute to various problems that can affect a child’s behavior, including things like developmental delays, conduct disorders and attachment disorders.
On top of the other things that many children suffer by the time they find an adoptive home, they usually don’t have much of a chance to really develop healthy bonds with any of their caregivers. Some children who are up for adoption get shuffled around rapidly from home to home as resources change, while others sit in understaffed facilities where there aren’t enough people to give them the attention that they need on a daily basis to thrive.
Adopted children are often simply afraid to form strong bonds or respond to expressions of love right away. The anxiety, fear and feeling that everything is beyond his or her control can manifest in emotional issues, detachment, anger, aggression and tantrums. While these can be distressing, it’s important to realize that your child is equally distressed — and this is a problem that’s treatable.
Parents who adopt a child — as opposed to an infant — of any age should consider beginning family therapy even before the adoption happens. That can help the adults manage their expectations so that they know, realistically, what to expect when the adoption happens. That also makes it easier to being therapy as a family once your adopted child joins the family.
If you are interested, a family law attorney can provide more information about how to go through the adoption process.