International Adoption Info

Newsletter #138 for Internationally Adopting Parents
November 15, 2010
PAL Center Inc.


Update and enrich
your parenting skills with


Online Class
for parents adopting older children internationally



November 17, 2010
Susan Luger Associates

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in internationally adopted children

November 21th, 2010
30th APC Adoption Conference

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in International Adoptees:
Differential Diagnosis and Remediation.

Psychological assessment of internationally adopted children –
what to request and expect
from the professionals.

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Therapist's Corner


As the number of adoptions with younger kids diminishes, when the parents have time for remediation before the additional stress of school performance and peer pressure arrives, and the number of adoptions with older and more impaired kids grows, behavior issues take more and more prominent place in the lives of adoptive families.
Dr. Patty Cogen, the author of the bestseller "Parenting your internationally adopted child: from your first hours together through the teen years," keeps rethinking typical approach to these kids' remediation and offers
a lot of new observations and techniques in her online class
"The first year home: what to expect and how to respond."

Below we publish an introduction to the chapter on working with the out of control child from the online class that extends the findings published in the book.

Dr. P. Cogen
A child who has lost a birth mom will have to acquire strong survival skills. One survival skill is to "expect neglect". If a child expects care, and care is not forthcoming, the child will ultimately be in danger. For example, a mother holds an infant's bottle, but in an orphanage most children have their bottle's propped up and learn quickly to hold their own bottles. To expect care, to expect a bottle to be held is to invite starvation.
For an older child in an orphanage setting, the expectation that food will remain on the plate until the child eats it is foolish. Children survive by gobbling their food and grabbing the food of others. These behaviors (eating rapidly, not chewing, stealing other's food, getting food from any source possible, being sneaky, taking risks) are all vital for survival. They are the skills a child who expects neglect will use even when that child has left the orphanage.

Children who feel alone in the world feel that everything, everyone are out of control. These children become the "Royal Boss" types because this approach to life helps them feel in control. They tell others what to do, they become irate if routines are not followed, they demand perfection of themselves and of others. "You always make my oatmeal with milk, you can't substitute water today!" A six, or ten, or twelve year old might shout furiously at mom. The least change can make a child feel out of control and the fight or flight syndrome or the shutdown may occur. If mom responds casually, the fight might go on for an hour; or the child may chose not to eat: "I won't eat this horrible breakfast, I've starved before and I'll starve again." Here the child is reliving his or her experience of being neglected in the past and is mobilizing survival skills to manage the feelings that arise. Denying hunger is to be in control of it!

Seeing a child out of control, it is easy for a parent to slip into the same desperate place. Reasoning, consequences and logic don't help a child who is in fight-or-flight or shutdown state. It may seem as though the child is in a glass cage where he or she can't be reached, can't hear or feel the parent's care. At such times, children also tend to pull in all sorts of unrelated reasons for their anger. In fact they just can not bring themselves to say, "that little bit of change scared me to death." To avoid feeling manipulated, refocus the discussion on the initial trigger for anger and look for and identify for your child what changed.

But when parents feel out of control they often become desperate and look for a simple fix for the problem. This can lead to dangerous choices as ways to "control" the out of control child.

Some writers have recommended "holding therapies" in which the parent controls the child's behavior by holding him or her tightly until the child acquiesces to the parents' rules. Professional mental health practitioners never engage in or suggest that parents engage in such activities with their child. Holding therapies and other coercive therapies have never been evaluated in a professional way, nor have they been scientifically proven to be effective. Even more important, a coercive therapy can push a child into a deeper and deeper fight-or-flight or shutdown experience. These states put dramatic and drastic strains on the heart, among other organs. When a child shuts down, breathing and heart rate slow dramatically. At least one child has died and both a parent and therapist been convicted of causing the child's death using coercive techniques.

Understanding the physiological roots of survival skills of your child will enable you as a parent to understand what to do to help your child, and what not to do.


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