Online Parent Support Chat

22.11.08

Out-of-Control Adopted Child

Mark,

I am so far enjoying reading your eBook and the associated web materials. While I am reading them, they make sense. In our case, we are finding some difficulties applying them properly, however.

Here is a quick rundown of our situation. Four months ago we adopted two older girls from Russia, age (now) 7 and 11. Small surprise, they come from a neglectful environment, with many of the standard elements – unstable environment, alcoholic mom, etc. Until 1 bit more than 1 year ago, they remained in this environment before having custody removed.

Physically they are in reasonably good shape, and FAS (at least the observable physical signs) is not evident, although it is safe to assume that there is some element of this around. The appear to be of generally normal intelligence, and they are (again, small surprise) quite resourceful and street smart.

From the beginning, Diana, the younger one (emotional age probably about 4 – 5) has had ongoing temper tantrums, but this to us does not seem too much out of the norm. Vika, however, is a changing picture. She was fine for the first 1.5 months. Then, one day I left on a short business trip, and she refused to go to school (ok, easily traced to separation anxiety, we are guessing). This has continued (refusing to go to school in the morning), although in each case we have delivered her to school, sometimes kicking and screaming. IN the last month or so, this behavior has spread to non-school related areas, in a pretty out of control situation. Spitting and attempted biting are common, and now the younger sister has learned all her techniques and is copying them to a T J

We are aware that in some cases attachment issues are often dealt with the opposite of the standard “ignore the kid” response, as the kids are essentially testing to you prove to themselves that, like all the others, you too will abandon them. However, with Vika, she actually seems quite attached, leaving us at times unclear on how to deal with these issues. Our current approach when a kid acts out is to “safe hold” the kid, keep them close, make eye contact if possible,etc – until they eventually cry, melt, and then they will cling on to you like there is not tomorrow (but… this can take 30 minutes – 1 hour for the full cycle). This is our default treatment method, meant to err on the side of “if in doubt, assume you have an attachment issue”.

Yet at the same time, it is hard to tell if we are making positive or negative progress.

There are several areas where we are having particular trouble determining how to act:

1. Finding appropriate consequences. To minimize stimulation, we have refrained from giving our kids millions of toys, etc. The do have television access and computer (not-online) access by permission, and these form somewhat effective consequences. We also give them $1 per day allowance during school days, generally linked to getting on the bus in the morning. But… beyond that, we find ourselves at a loss on what a good consequence is for them. The only thing we are not willing to take from them is they “main” doll, which I see as a security blanket…

2. Getting them to school – when a kid refuses to go to school, it seems all we can do is: a) apply a consequence, but none seem sufficiently compelling to them in the heat of battle, and b) safe hold. In many cases we are left with a struggling kid that is willing to throw child seats around in the car. Are there any other obvious actions we should be considering?

3. Beyond consequences, are we doing the right thing with “restrain, safe hold close, and wait”? IT can be quite a struggle at times. In case it is not obvious, the kids in this state will not voluntarily stay anywhere – left alone they are more likely to run outside in the winter in their underwear, etc.

My Out-of-Control Adopted Children

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