International Adoption Info

Newsletter #67 for Internationally Adopting Parents
July 19, 2007
PAL Center Inc.



Initial Psycho-Educational
of preschool and school age
Children from China
In the Native Language
is now available

Psychological services at the Center for Cognitive-developmental Assessment and Remediation

Call 845-694-8496 for details


A new group consultation

Jean Mauro, LCSW, Psychotherapist specializing in children and families

In the midst of attachment issues:
What to do when you are concerned

During a group session we the following questions are addressed:

  • Parental expectations and the realities of bonding.
  • Practical bonding and attachment between you and your child of any age (What works and what doesn't).
  • How to deal with behavioral and emotional disturbances: excessive aggression, emotional detachment, clingy behavior.
  • How to develop a support system for your family.
  • Setting priorities and establishing routines.

of other consultations

You receive this newsletter
as a former client or correspondent of the Center for Cognitive-Developmental
Assessment & Remediation,
or a former student
of the BGCenter Online School,
or a user of the International Adoption Articles Directory.


Latest Articles
from the

International Adoption Articles Directory


Questions and Answers

Preparing an Internationally Adopted Child
for a Sleep Away Camp
Dr. Gindis answers parents' questions

Q. We sent our daughter for the first time to sleep away camp just a few weeks ago. She had a very positive experience by all accounts from those two weeks away. However, upon returning (she's been home now for 7 days) she's been having big meltdowns each day. She cries a lot about some little thing and is re-testing boundaries all over again. I know that many parents report this about their children when they return from camp. Do you have any insights as to why this is happening with our daughter?

A. First, let me assure you that I consider a sleep-away camp as generally positive experience for most children. These few weeks away from home may bring a reinforced feeling of love and affection for both parents and children; they may boost the process of individualization and autonomy in a preteen child; they may refine the sense of self-worth and self-sufficiency - the major elements of maturity in developing young person.

At the same time the experience can be bitter and overwhelming for a child who is psychologically not ready for it. For children who are internationally adopted at preschool and school age, who were adopted relatively recently (within the last three years) and those who have institutional background a sleep away camp could be a serious ordeal.

Any sleep away camp has an environment that may resemble orphanage. This may be a trigger for unpleasant memories that in turn could bring symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder resulted in unusual emotional responses to normal and typical situations. For example, one boy got hysterical when asked to clean up a bunker using a mop ("that looked exactly like one in our Detsky Dom" as he explained to me lately). Another girl, as reported by her mother, was saddened and sobbed non-stop on seeing girls lining up in canteen with their plates in hands. You never know what could be a trigger for PTSD for an individual child.

Another aspect of sleep away camp is a separation anxiety. This is the first time when internationally adopted children are leaving home and their families for a relatively long time (from two to six weeks). A child may experience a renewed feeling of acute separation anxiety and stress. The fear of abandonment and rejection may be deeply rooted in psychological make-up of post-institutionalized children and sleep away camp situation may bring these feeling to surface and activate them. What is interesting, and reported by some adoptive parents, most of their children were able to go through the camp experience just fine and be even fond of this time, but on returning home could melt down and regress significantly as if at home they 'let go" of what they "hold back" in the camp.

In order to prevent undesirable consequences of this, in general, useful experience, I would like to suggest a few simple techniques that could be easily modified by parents based on their children's age, gender, and personality:

1. Include your child in the process of selecting a camp. Consider their opinion and have a discussion of different options. The child must feel some control over the choices and participate in decision making. Without this process, when you just announce your decision, this may resemble a "rejection" situation. It is important to understand what your child thinks and feels about the impending separation before it actually occurs. If the child is adamantly against being sent to an overnight camp, it is worth to consider other options and even skip this summer. The fact that this experience was "just fine" in your own childhood and/or for your other children, does not mean much: what's right for one child isn't necessarily right for another.

2. Practice some "mini-separation" (for a night or two) before subjecting your child to a longer time away from home. These mini-separations will boost your child's confidence and help ease the transition to being away from everything familiar.

3. Discuss the "lines of communication" during camping: make a schedule of calls, e-mails, or letters. Promise to respond promptly and request the same from the child. Make this a bit dramatic and entertaining by inventing a special "code" inserted into your writing ("we will use a letter X to mean "campers" and a word "stamp" for good thing and the letter combination "etch" for bad things", etc.). Discuss an emergency contact situation as well. Write often, focusing on the positives (the friends your child is making, the things he or she is learning, etc.). Avoid dwelling on how much you miss your child or on the list of things he or she is missing at home. This could make the separation even harder.

4. Give a child a few symbolic things to keep in the camp (e.g.: family picture, a favorite pillow, stuffed animal or any other special object that reminds and symbolizes home. Familiar items will help make your child more comfortable in the new surroundings.

5. Ask your child to write a diary of his/her living far from home.

6. Talk extensively about your plans AFTER the camp to create a feeling of continuity.

After the child has arrived from the camp back home, do expect some adjustment difficulties: you have now a more mature child with new experiences, though you still may expect also some regression of behavior. You may be unpleasantly surprised that your child learned a few expressions you would like him/her never use again; some unwanted behavior patterns, etc. - all this is normal on the way to maturity. The best way to address these issues is to get back to your routine as soon as possible.


To unsubscribe
send e-mail to
with the subject: unsubscribe