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International Adoption Info

Newsletter #166 for Internationally Adopting Parents
January 2, 2014
PAL Center Inc.

Happy New Year!

New Service at BGCenter

Parental Techniques & Counseling
for Adoptive Families

    How does the counseling service work?

    Counseling is not a family or child's psychotherapy, its goal is very practical: help you - the parent - to find a working approach for resolving day-to-day issues in your adopted child's life. It's a practical advice for you on how to handle one hurdle at a time in your specific situation.

    There is a large range of problems that can be prevented or corrected with the right parenting techniques needed to bring up a post-orphanage child, and Jeltje Simons can help you with it.

    To initiate a counseling session with Jeltje Simons, you will need to do the following:

    Step 1. Send an email message to Ms Simons at talk_adoption@yahoo.com briefly describing the issues with your child and indicating the following:

    What is your child's age and sex?
    •How long has your child been home?
    • Does your child have any known special needs? Please specify, if any.
    •Please describe a typical day.
    •Which problems are you experiencing when parenting your child?
    •What have you done to prevent those problems reoccurring?
    •What's the best part of the day for you to have a consultation and if you would like to call on the phone (to Sweden) or Skype?

    Step 2. You will get a reply from Ms Simons within 3 business days with 2 possible time segments to select for your initial consultation. Confirm the selected time segment.

    Step 3. Pay for the initial consultation by PayPal and call Ms Simons on the phone or Skype, as arranged, to discuss her suggestions on how to handle the problem.

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Latest Articles
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International Adoption Articles Directory
New Articles

Lingering problems with socialization and peer interaction

B. Gindis Ph.D.
Difficulties with socialization and peer interaction in older internationally adopted children

Surveys of adoptive parents (McCarthy, 2005, National Survey of Adoptive Parents, 2010), research (Meese, 2005, Gunnar, 2007, Bruce, 2009), and my own clinical experience (Gindis, 2006) suggest that a disproportionally large number of internationally adopted (IA) children fail to establish and maintain age-appropriate peer relations during their formative years. It is particularly evident in so-called "older" adoptees, those who were adopted after the age of 5. Difficulties with peer relations are, in a certain way, their "trade-mark": teachers and parents in unison report that too many IA children are less socially successful than their age counterparts. In this article I discuss their difficulties in the process of gaining the knowledge, social skills, and appropriate language that allow for integration into a peer group. This process implies accepting, either consciously or subconsciously, the values, attitudes, norms, social roles and manners of interaction that are prevalent in the group (Ryan, 2000).

The Consequences of Negative Peer Relations

In all periods of childhood, but particularly during the pre-adolescent and adolescent years, peer interactions and friendships constitute the core of socialization and provide a feeling of belonging and self-validation, a context for self-disclosure and emotional security (Ryan, 2000,Thompson & O'Neill, 2001). Peer friendship is a form of attachment, while peer rejection and bullying are psychologically traumatic. Inadequate socialization causes adjustment difficulties, emotional instability, and anxieties. Rejection by peers has a negative effect on a child's self-esteem and contributes to development of loneliness and gloominess (Ryan, 2000, Thompson & O'Neill, 2001, Ronk, 2011). Rejected children often gravitate towards one another, thus escalating each other's depressive or acting out behavior. International adoptees have a tendency to associate with younger children, children with learning or behavior issues, and those who are the least popular (McCartney, 2005, Gindis, 2006). If this issue is not properly addressed, IA children may accumulate the experience of being rejected - a typical background for future emotional and behavioral problems.

The Causes of Peer Rejection

Rejections may occur for a variety of reasons. As noted by their parents, a typical base for rejection of IA children by their peers is their aggressive or odd (quirky, "strange") behavior. Because of their immature and at times challenging behavior, IA children may require more supervision and thus are less likely to be invited to their friends' houses. Adoptive parents, in turn, are concerned about their child's behavior when they cannot monitor it, so they are also reluctant to permit play dates away from home. Rare after-school contacts do not facilitate companionship and offer no opportunities to develop the closeness between friends that encourages self-disclosure and the provision of emotional support. So, what is behind those "atypical" behaviors in IA children and what are its manifestations?

Aside from personal qualities, there are objective circumstances in the former and current environment of IA children which make it difficult for them to acquire new social norms and skills. By the time of adoption, their psychological profile already includes many characteristics that can hinder interpersonal connections. Let's look at these characteristics in order to better understand how deeply they may be ingrained into an IA child's psychological makeup and how to help children overcome these traits after the adoption.

Poor Self-Regulation

Starting life in a dysfunctional family and then experiencing a peculiar combination of rigid routine with ongoing turnover of caregivers and frequent transfers of children within and between institutions creates unpredictability in living arrangements and leads to a tremendous sense of instability and lack of control. With virtually no personal choices and no private possession such as toys or other goods, there is a minimal need for behavioral self-regulation, long-term planning, or goal-directed consistent behavior. And, of course, there are no adults in their lives who can model and support self-regulatory skills. Orphanage residents live in a "reactive" mode, surviving one day at a time. Limitations with self-regulation of behavior and emotions are evident in emotional volatility, difficulty with delaying gratification, making transitions between activities and, most of all, in difficulties with resisting acting on an impulse. Imagine a nine year old with these characteristics trying to engage with a group of peers playing organized sport or working on a group project in the classroom.

Mixed Maturity

The development of many international adoptees was mediated by a chain of traumatic events in their early childhood such as abandonment, hunger, deprivation of basic physical and emotional needs, abuse, institutionalization, and finally adoption to another country. This pattern of development may result in what is known as Developmental Trauma Disorder, adversely affecting the entire maturation of the child by inhibiting the integration of cognitive, emotional, and sensory functions into a cohesive whole. Victims of DTD present with "mixed maturity" (Cogen, 2008): at times they may demonstrate the behavior of an older child and at times of a much younger one. For example, in terms of self-care, alertness to the environment and basic survival skills post-institutional children may be well advanced for their age, but in reaction to stress and frustration they may act like a child several years younger. Their reactions to social events, interpersonal relationships, academic learning, and their overall adaptive behavior are often different from what is expected at their age. As a result, it is difficult for them to interact with peers, to share interests, to participate in conversation, to engage in play, sports, or learning activities. They may be isolated in Scout groups, excluded from different spontaneous "projects," and left out during parties.

Read the complete article with Dr. Gindis' recommendations


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