International Adoption Info

Newsletter #93 for Internationally Adopting Parents
August 28, 2008
PAL Center Inc.


A new specialist at the BGCENTER!

Marina Muchnick
Bilingual Speech/ Language Pathologist with a native fluency in the Russian Language

Q. We currently home school our children. Would this be a good school setting for an internationally adopted child? Would we need to supplement anything? We are open to tutors, other instructors, etc in our curriculum, just not full enrollment in public school.

Boris Gindis, Ph.D. There is a huge amount of Internet-based information discussing this dilemma; and you will find people standing firm on either side of the issue, because the answer is "it depends on many circumstances and must be approached individually on case by case basis." Do not base you decision on somebody's bad (or good) experience with the local school and try to think about all angles of the issue. For the lack of space, I'll address only negative sides of homeschooling here. To help you get a balanced view I would refer you to the sites that primarily opt for homeschooling.
1. Not every parent is capable of doing home schooling. Even if the school environment you have is not good enough, it does not mean that you will necessarily do it better yourself: it's a very difficult job, which requires special abilities, stamina, knowledge and skills.

2. Your child may need services and intensity for remediation available at school when delivered by a group of specializing professionals and according to a proper remedial plan. Very often the parents assume that a private tutor will provide a one-on-one service and therefore is a better option for their child, forgetting that a specialist in certain remedial methodology or a special education teacher may be much better equipped to deal with your child's issues even if they have to work with a group rather than one-on-one with the child. Giving it all up may be a costly (not only from the point of financing) mistake, difficult to rectify later due to the lost time. Getting the school to do all the right things may be a difficult task as well, but in the long run it may be a better solution.

3. Your adopted from an orphanage child is used to group activities and structure and perceives school activities as group activities mostly. Functioning in a less structured environment and without any family life experience may be a destabilizing factor in your child's life.

4. Socializing with peers - a major source of learning experiences, may be more restricted with homeschooling.

5. Familiarizing with the school-related routines and procedures that will be necessary when the child returns into the mainstream educational setting, and which are gradually accumulated by the peers at school, may be delayed or hindered in the home schooling environment.

6. The experience and research show that attachment issues of internationally adopted children are more likely to become complicated rather than enhanced by the intense relations with the parents in the teacher's role. These children had many teachers in the past and will have many teachers in the future - but they never experienced proper parenting. If you present yourself as a teacher/tutor, the child may be confused in identifying you as a parent.

7. A possibility of a burn out and fatigue for the parents who need to play a parent's and a teacher's role simultaneously and have less time for respite and personal time is increased.

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Latest Articles
from the

International Adoption Articles Directory
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Stress Management Tips from the Experts
Relaxation techniques have been proven by decades of scientific research to improve health. This article provides some proven stress management techniques, as well as offers free tools to create a relaxation program.

Your Questions 

We also received a number of questions from you and selected two of them, as they reflect rather common concerns. In this Newsletter the BGCenter professionals give their perspective on these important questions.

Q. We adopted our children 20 months ago. One of our boys is still in the survival mode of behavior. He steals food and money and lies, and has no remorse when disciplined. He just stares! He doesn't cry, or show reaction to it. He says he wants to go back! He has started saying that he hates his family. But when he is not in trouble he thinks everything is fine. I think he really needs to go back! Any suggestions?

Marina Sud, Psy.D.: When talking to a therapist, it would be helpful to provide the following information: how old is the boy, age and gender of his siblings, any history regarding biological parents, any developmental disabilities, the condition of the facility he is from, how long he lived there, as well as the child-to-adult ratio at the orphanage. It would also be helpful to know who else resides in your home, has this boy attended school, if so, how did he do academically and behaviorally, how does he get along with his siblings, any competition for your attention, jealousy, how are his siblings adjusting, and how does he get along with other children/adults?

In the orphanage, which are usually understaffed, behaviorally acting out may have the way your son learned to compete for attention; negative attention is better then no attention at all. Stealing and lying are probably what he had to do to survive. In other words this may be the only way he's known to live/survive. Although 20 months may seem like a "long time" it's important to keep in mind, when thinking of your time with this child, that the first three years of a child's life are extremely important. This is when a child develops physical, psychological and emotional health, these are the formative years when a child learns about empathy, compassion, trust and love.

You say he doesn't respond to punishment. It might be that he doesn't view anything short of physical discipline as punishment. So he may have a difficult time conceptualizing that he is being punished, or that he is doing anything wrong. Another possibility is that he understands he's doing something wrong and feels like "he's getting away with murder." Just to be clear, I'm not advocating physical discipline, just trying to shed some light on why he may have "no remorse when disciplined, just stares, and doesn't cry, or show reaction." However, staring, not crying or having a reaction may also be indicative of past trauma and of an ambivalent attachment (i.e., child gets easily angered, oppositional, good at getting everyone else to feel as miserable as he does). There is a strong correlation between trauma and attachment disorders.

I don't think he needs to return to his orphanage, even if he says that's what he wants. It's important to keep in mind that he is probably testing you, to see if you will "survive" and keep him, or send him back. I imagine this is a very trying time for you and your family. Unfortunately things will more then likely be difficult for a while. You must try to "survive." Do whatever is necessary to keep yourself well and to feel supported. If you haven't done so already, I would strongly encourage you to join a support group for parents dealing with similar issues.

I also think he should be in therapy. 'Talk' or 'play' therapies do not work well with attachment disordered children. These therapies require children who have the ability to develop a trusting relationship with the therapist. This is quite a challenge for a child not able to form bonding relationships. Effective therapy must always include the child's parents, with focus on helping parents provide structure, nurturing, and encourage the formation of an attachment. Individual therapy, such as behavioral modification, would also be helpful.

Homeschooling Related Links

Homeschooling the Older, Adopted Child

Homeschooling the Internationally Adopted Child

Homeschooling vs. Schooling at Home


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