As a parent of adopted kids I found myself wondering far too much, why? Why did my kids have to endure so much so early in life? Why do they have to overcome so much? I’ve realized these aren’t the questions that will bring about healing and restoration. The question I began asking is, what will my family and I do with the journey that we’re traveling together? What lessons and strengths will we develop together? Throughout this post we will look at the effects of trauma and what we can do about it.
Last fall I wrote a post called, Detecting Attachment Issues, in it I gave examples of what children with attachment issues do and how they act. An adoptive mom I’ve worked with commented on that post, saying she was discouraged, she thought her little guy was doing so much better, but she saw many things on the list that she didn’t realize were attachment issues. I could hear the dejection through her words that were typed, not spoken.
(It might be a good idea for you to read that post I linked to in the above paragraph, as it will help you understand what I’m referring to here.)
Here is my response to the adoptive mom who felt her child was doing so much better:
So sorry this left you discouraged, so not my intentions. First, I want to say that the list is a reference, and you are the deciding factor of whether or not your son is doing well. No list, therapist, or book can tell you anything other than what you see in your child.
Some of these behaviors exist in children [with typical upbringings], whether they have attachment issues or not. Also, remember that your child has ingrained attributes that stem from his biological parents, their personality types, their behaviors. Say, if a child’s biological parent is a law-breaker extraordinaire, a mom or dad may see signs of their child trying to wiggle her way around rules and lying.
Most importantly, our child’s early lives formed their brains to some extent. Some of that can be changed, and I feel you’re seeing that, but they will have some defined attributes that continue with them. For example, although my daughter has bonded very well at this point, she’s still hyper-vigilant and tries to control some situations (more so around her friends), and wants to be in charge.
We take those characteristics and give her opportunities for taking responsibility. We don’t want to crush the abilities that will serve our children well in the future, they can be intelligent leaders, teachers, and do great things with what they learned at the beginning of their lives, but we direct them in positive ways.
I hope this helps some and doesn’t leave you feeling so dispirited. If you think your son is doing well, then he is! 🙂
Adding to the list of negatives that can be looked at differently or turned to positives are a child’s need to manipulate. How can this later develop into an acceptable characteristic? Problem-solving skills. A child who wants to manipulate will do whatever they can to solve or change a situation they don’t like, hence you will later have a problem-solver.
A section of the book, Unbroken, stood out to me as relating to our traumatized children. Unbroken is about the true story of Louie Zamperini. When he was young he caused calamity wherever he went, he had a strong will, strong body, and strong mind. Without giving away too much of the book, he faced hell when he was just out of college, what befell him seems like the horrors that only exist in fiction. One intense struggle after another chased Louie, and the author says,
“The same attributes that had made him the boy terror of Torrance were keeping him alive in the greatest struggle of his life.”
If Louie had been a different person, he likely wouldn’t have made it through a sixteenth of his journey. He would’ve died, that’s how bad it was. He survived because of who he was before catastrophe struck. He was an optimistic, intelligent fighter, and this carried him through years of trials.
This is also so true of our children.
What they faced in their early years will transform them, hopefully making them stronger for what they’ll face in the future. If we can help them shape their tendencies to the positive side, there’s abounding hope for them.
I’m not saying parents should celebrate all the negative behaviors in their kids. I’m encouraging you not to get discouraged when you think your child is healing, but then see a negative attitude or behavior spring forward. Sometimes it’s a kid thing, some behaviors are age appropriate like lying, it could be that your child is strong-willed (really good chance), it could be something biological, and it could be how your child’s brain was wired for self-preservation while being neglected or abused. There are so many factors.
Like I told the woman who felt so distraught over my list for detecting attachment issues, if YOU feel YOUR child is doing GOOD, then no worries, you keep plugging along. Your positive attitude is going to take you farther than a negative one that gets overwhelmed at how long you’ve been working on healing. Therapeutic parenting is tiring, and you want there to be a point at which you can sit back and relax. You can, it just might look different than how your neighbor does it.
In the end, it’s going to be okay, because you’re changing a life.
Do you feel your child has bonded? Are their residual behaviors that pop up and make you wonder what’s going on? Can you see how any of them can serve your child well in life?
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I read your list on the other post. Sounds pretty accurate to me. My son has many of those. He has been with us for a year now, and we still have weekly therapy sessions on attachment. Though he has shown sings of progress, they are really very small steps. I have heard it may take up to two years before great differences can be noticed.
It is also something that comes in waves. One may experience a time of sincere smoothness, and then it comes back again. It is easy to feel discouraged at that point, but that is a normal thing with the healing process. It truly is two steps forward, one backwards. The goal isn’t to instantly see it all disappear within a couple of months, but the goal is to notice that when the waves come, each time it doesn’t go too far out.
Anyway, to all moms of children with RAD, let’s keep on course! We will get there. Think long term 😉
Thank you for your insight, spot on!