1. Know how your child manages stress and what helps sooth and calm emotional distress. Initially, under stress your child knows nothing else but to react. By understanding and demonstrating how you manage stress, in healthy ways, you can resist being pulled into the reactivity of the child. The reactivity needs to be interrupted as early on, as possible, so that it does not become chronic. Know when you need help.
2. Be open to learning a different style of parenting. Become informed about adoption and the impact of trauma. Create an adoption story to tell your child. (This is the story about the beginning of the relationship with you and how your child came home. My next post will feature how to create this story. What to include and what to leave out)
3. During the adjustment period, find opportunities to encourage your child to use, curiosity, wonder and exploration to learn something new about themselves and the world. It is the un-metabolized experience of early loss and trauma that can make a child vulnerable to learning challenges. The bottom line is that we do not engage in healthy curiosity, and exploration and learn something new when we are under stress and feel insecure; uncertain and afraid.
4. When you are officially the adoptive parent you are finally in charge. What do you want to do as regards contact with the biological family and siblings etc? Most Adoption Professionals believe that Open Adoption is more beneficial to the adopted child. However, It is important for you to think about what Open Adoption means to you considering the circumstances of the Birth parents and family and your adopted child. It is now your responsibility to clearly assess what is the right amount of contact for your child? if any? Open or closed adoption? Have you been able to sort through your own feelings about the Birth parents and family? It is very useful to take the time to talk to a Professional therapist to clarify how you feel and what are your options and your limitations when considering the Adoption, Birth parents and family.
5. As you get to know your child, the cycle of the ‘survival mode’ acting out behavior and pushing away of the adult caregiver needs to be interrupted.
Connect before you correct. Structure, empathy and follow through. Initially, any change or transition (even from one activity to another without due warning) will often activate the ‘survival’ behaviors in a child, which often means a dependence on themselves and what they know about surviving. Of course, not every loss experienced during the day is a situation of physical or psychological survival, but the brain and nervous system of many foster children does not recognize this fact. Unfortunately, their behaviors are often purposefully, alienating and challenging and confusing to deal with for a caregiver. Also, the more often the behavior is activated in the child the more the nervous system will register the need for the habitual negative reaction. The cycle of the survival mode acting out behavior and pushing away of the adult needs to be interrupted as often as possible.