Adoptive Child Behavior

By Contributing Author, Running Girl of Kay Nou=Our House

Photo by miss604, found on Flickr

Our youngest son, Island Boy, is now 6 years old.  He was adopted from Haiti and came home at the age of 3 1/2.
Before IB came home to us, we did a lot of reading on attachment issues.  We have worked tirelessly to make IB feel loved here in his new home.  It has not been easy, nor has it always been smooth sailing. It makes us wonder if this is a normal adoptive child behavior.
All kids have triggers that set them off.  IB’s triggers can be bigger and more exaggerated than other kids his age.  We have heard and often remind each other, that his biological age does not necessarily match his behavioral age.  His behavioral age sometimes presents itself as the age since he has been home with us. Thus, he often behaves like a 3 year old.
As most adoptive parents, we constantly worry and wonder, “Is this behavior related to his adoption?  Or is this simply a normal behavior for a child his age?”  Some of our friends like to tell us, “Don’t worry.  My kid does that too.”  Maybe, but it’s not quite the same.
IB struggles with peer relationships.  We are working with him at home and with his teachers at school.  We are finally at a point where we feel we can begin to branch out slowly.  We are starting to introduce him to activities outside of school.  Up until recently, it was clear to us that he was not ready for these extra activities.  School was enough stimulation and he needed time at home to recharge his batteries.
Last week, IB started a local “Learn to Skate” program.  So far, the program seems perfect for him. We signed up for a 1/2 hour group lesson with 1/2 of free skate after.  Luckily, the beginner group includes one other boy his age who happens to live in our neighborhood.
We have seen this boy’s mom walking their dog who looks like our dog, Rocket’s twin brother.  My husband, The Major, chatted with this mom about our twin dogs.  At the ice rink she recognized IB  and approached me.
IB and her son had a great lesson together.  They whizzed across the ice, using the little walkers for balance.  They seemed to especially enjoy the free skate which included lots of spectacular falls and pretend crashing into the boards.  These boys showed no fear.  There were no tears and no major injuries.
The mom and I chatted throughout the hour about dogs, the elementary school and after school activities.  We got along nicely and I’m looking forward to the next few months of lessons.
As the time on the ice was nearing an end, I started to become slightly apprehensive about getting IB off of the ice.  One of his triggers is transitions.  He really struggles with them.  He can pitch some massive fits and can be downright nasty in his tone of voice.  When he is having fun, he does not want to stop.  Now we had an audience.
We spend lots of time preparing for transitions.  We talk about what will happen when an activity comes to an end. We give warnings as the time is drawing to a close.  We practice what is acceptable to say when an event is over.  “Boy, that was fun.  I am so sorry that is over.  I hope we can do it again.” rather than, “I hate you. I was having fun and now this is YOUR FAULT that we have to leave.”
Things have improved immensely over the months, however, it can be uncomfortable around people who don’t know IB or his background.  I am debating how much I want to share with this other mom.  I don’t know her well.  I don’t want to share too much.  How do you explain to a stranger that his behavior is not a reflection on my parenting or on IB as a person?
We have decided that it is alright to simply say that IB struggles with transitions more than other kids.  He hasn’t had a lot of experiences with extra curricular activities.
•    Then I will continue to be calm, cool and collected.
•    I will remind IB that we speak nicely to one another.
•    I will remind him that ALL of the kids are exiting the ice at the same time.
•    I will reassure him that we will be returning the following week for more fun.
•    I will have snacks for him immediately because he needs that distraction and he needs to refuel.
•    I will not worry too much that someone might be judging me and my parenting.  IB has come a long way.
•    I will remember that his path has been much more difficult than other kids.
•    I will be consistent with IB.
•    I will be proud of IB and all that he has accomplished.
•    I will be there for IB every step of the way.


About the Author:  Running Girl is the mother of 3, a wife, music teacher and long distance enthusiasts who lives in Western New York. Please visit her blog at




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