Newsletter #21 for Internationally Adopting Parents
June 18, 2006
PAL Center Inc.

In this issue

Russian Speaking
Professionals of
Bilingual Extension at Bgcenter

Q. Our 4-year-old son, who is with us almost 3 months already, seeks affection and is usually overly strong with his hugging and becomes frantic if no attention is paid to him. But he does not like us to initiate the affection. He will say numerous times in the day "please pick me up." If it's possible at that moment we do, and then he'll give you a short crushing hug and then immediately begin squirming in our arms and says "please put me down." If you don't put him down promptly he will begin to kick and squirm almost frantically again and within seconds will begin to whine. Is that normal?

A. This behavior is rather typical for a post-institutionalized child. Attention is the most valuable asset and he is striving to get it. He has it from you but he is not sure how constant and stable this flow of attention will be. No wonder he is restless and anxious when this flow is interrupted. It's a normal testing period in attaching when your son needs affection. lots of it - but on his terms. Later he will learn to give it back. Don't jump to conclusions yet, just give him time!
Boris Gindis, Ph.D.

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You receive this newsletter as a former client 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

In this issue of the Newsletter we introduce our new member of the Bilingual Extension group at Bgcenter - Dr. Vadim A. Ivanov.
Dr. Ivanov is an American Bilingual Board Certified Pediatrician, who currently works in Moscow and is available for adoptive parents looking for medical help and advice while in Russia.


Dealing with cultural differences of
an internationally adopted child

Boris Gindis, Ph.D.
The initial adjustment period is incredibly demanding and difficult for all members of any adoptive family, not just the child who will most likely be acting like a much younger one, will be visibly stressed out and over-aroused with everything new that is happening in his/her life. It is a cultural shock in many cases, and even families who are eager to embrace the child’s native culture and would try to learn the language, eat the food and fill the house with the ethnic nick-knacks very quickly realize that it is not enough: culture goes so much deeper than that. So, what is this illusive culture that interferes with our best “thought through” plans to bring the children home and make them happy?

Culture is a complex phenomenon that has many different elements, such as customs, values, art, religion, food, folklore, clothes, holidays, heroes, aspirations, attitudes, etc. For our purposes, it is important to understand that culture serves as regulator of behavior--we behave and assess behavior of others according to certain cultural norms and models. Culture creates a "template" of our behavior with many automatic elements that we often do not consciously recognize. It creates the "lenses," through which we perceive the world, and it gives the meaning to everything we experience. As Dr. Gaw says (Concise Guide to Cross-Cultural Psychiatry. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2001),

...Culture defines the guidelines that provide a contextual basis for our lives. It is through this cultural lens that our own as well as other's thoughts, feelings and behaviors are interpreted and shaped. Culture acts as a buffer of meaning, layered between the biological human organism and the natural environment. Culture also provides a great storehouse of ready-made solutions to problems...

In the case of older internationally adopted children, adoptive families and children represent different cultures, and their relationships will be effected by these differences. It is up to the family to understand these differences and manage them to strengthen rather than weaken the relationships. And the first step, as Beth Waggenspack wrote in one of her postings in an EEAC Internet-based discussion group at, is to remember that

...New adoptive parents should keep realistic expectations in mind as they negotiate parenthood. An adult from a different country coming here must contend with overwhelming stimuli, differing cultural and social expectations, and brand-new situations, and most find coping to be a 24/7 task. Our North American conceptions of time (when you do things), food (what you eat/how you eat it), cultural conventions like respect and response, often are so different---alien---that even someone who HAS a strong cultural background from the native country and who understands that they have to learn new things has great difficulty maneuvering here in a socially acceptable way. Our kids don't even have that cultural background. They've lived in poverty, in abysmal conditions, in institutions----none of that is "normal." They haven't had role models, they haven't had experiences, they've been ignored or regulated for all their lives. Change does not come quickly, easily, or on any schedule. There is no predictability. You probably will have to forgo many experiences until a child gets some basics, like how to sit at a table with a family, or how to come to you for help, or how to behave in a store. Adding higher social/cultural expectations is unrealistic.



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