My daughter Libby was born as I held her birth mother Carla’s hand, breathing with her through the agony of labour. When her daughter drew her first breath, Carla looked at me and said, “Congratulations on your new baby.” Then she asked me to cut the umbilical cord.
Advice from a counsellor on how to recognize and help wounded children and youth.
Trauma: adoption’s shadow
Many children and youth who are adopted have been exposed to highly stressful situations and traumatic events; however, the resulting special needs these children can experience aren’t always recognized or supported. It’s vital for caregivers and professionals to learn the signs and symptoms of trauma as they present in children and youth, and to know how to find and access age-appropriate trauma-informed care.
I’m a mom of four children, all adopted at different ages and stages. My first child was born in the US in 1997 and adopted as a newborn. In 2006 I adopted three more children from Liberia in West Africa. They were 2, 4, and 13 years old (though the 13 year old wouldn’t actually join our family until he was nearly 19).
In 2006, Liberia was a country in turmoil, it was just a few years after the civil war had ended, the infant and child mortality rates were incredibly high, and the adoptions were being processed relatively quickly.
Your adopted child’s early life experiences may have caused a delay in their emotional development. Child and family counsellor and behaviourist, Carol Olafson, explains how paying attention to emotional development can help you and your child.
Emotional development is thought to be one of the most important factors in individuals being able to function well in the world. In fact, researchers have coined the term “emotional intelligence” to refer to how well a person uses both his or her cognitive and emotional development to succeed as adults.
It's not about "good" or "bad"
Children are vulnerable. In an optimal environment, they experience this vulnerability later in life when their minds and nervous systems are equipped to handle elevated levels of fear, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. The key phrase here is “optimal environment.” Unfortunately, we live in the “real” world, so children will often find themselves in situations that are far from the optimal; the result can be childhood trauma.
Britta West is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Clinical Traumatologist located in Burnaby, BC. She completed her Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University in 2009. In 2012, Britta completed the Clinical Traumatologist specialization from the Traumatology Institute. Her areas of expertise include attachment, trauma, mental health and behavioural health diagnoses and parenting. Britta provides therapeutic interventions to address these issues in the context of the family system.
What a difference three years can make.
We recently attended an interracial adoptive families get together. It is a valuable resource for all of us. Our daughter gets to see other families that look like ours, and my wife and I get to hear other experiences that help us realize we’re not doing that badly.
Is it lying? No, it’s confabulation and there’s a big difference!
Time and time again we hear from adoptive parents that one of the hardest behaviours to take is children lying to them. They experience the lie as a personal affront, a show of disrespect, and a harbinger of anti-social behaviour to come. There are many reasons why adopted children may lie, ranging from the fight or flight reflex, fear of rejection or punishment, to delayed development. It is not uncommon, nor is it usually something to be alarmed about.
There are four types of child abuse:
Neurofeedback is a safe and non-invasive alternative treatment for issues such as trauma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, and anxiety. Here Brenda McCreight, adoptive parent, therapist, and author, describes how it works.
Our understanding of the way the brain develops and functions has grown phenomenally in the last five years. The capacity of the brain to change in function and in structure as it adapts to new information has proven to be astounding.