Understanding Your Adopted Child’s Behavior

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Illustration of pensive boy looking through an open door

Sure, your family experiences times of joy together, but you also encounter behavioral outbursts that leave you clueless. If only you had a secret decoder ring to help decipher your adopted child's behavior.

It’s 10 a.m., and you’re trying to get your children in the car to go grocery shopping. One child begins to melt down — crying, raging, throwing an all-out tantrum. You are unable to comfort the child or figure out what triggered the landslide of emotion. All you said was to get in the car.

Sure, your family experiences times of joy together, but you also encounter behavioral outbursts that leave you clueless. If only you had a secret decoder ring to help decipher your adopted child’s behavior.

Many children may not understand why they’re feeling a certain way or even have the verbal skills to express their distress. The job of parents is to see their actions as their language — the code that can lead us to their fears, needs and pain. And once we start to see the reasons behind their actions, our first response should be to address the need, not the behavior.

While every child has different responses to his or her emotional needs, here are some common behaviors that adoptive parents might see in children who have been traumatized:

She throws tantrums when I ask her to do something.

Outbursts of anger are a common response to any number of different feelings and situations. One major cause of anger in adopted children is uncertainty, often rooted in a history of change and instability. In the grocery-shopping situation above, the child may be ultra-sensitive to transition, so she may need a more gradual approach to change rather than a directive to just hop in the car. Help her be aware of upcoming changes, and later, when you’ve both calmed down, teach her that these outbursts are not acceptable ways to deal with stress.

Children who react more violently in stressful situations may have come from an abusive home or other living situation where physical aggression was a common response. Address the root cause of the anxiety, while teaching her that violence is not an appropriate way to solve problems.

He lies to me.

Children often lie to their adoptive parents when they think they might be in trouble, even if they haven’t misbehaved. Lies are an attempt to take control of a stressful situation. First, try to relieve the child’s anxiety without focusing on his lie. Later, you can explain how disappointed you are when he lies to you.

She hides food.

Your child may hoard food if she came from a living situation where she wasn’t always properly fed. Even if you assure her that meals will always be available, memories of hunger are deeply embedded. You can help develop your child’s trust that her needs will be met by giving her access to her own supply of snacks, maybe in a special drawer or other location meant just for her.

He has a hard time sleeping, and he’s afraid of being alone.

Children who have experienced neglect or abuse may feel the need to always be on guard, alert to the possibility that the people they live with will let them down or harm them in some way. It might even be that they’ve simply never had an adult in their life to protect them. You can gradually build your child’s sense of security by constantly reassuring him of your love and protection. Also, do your best to create an environment that feels safe, which might mean allowing him to sleep with a light on or setting up his play area in a place where he doesn’t feel alone.

She daydreams, often while rocking and sucking her thumb.

Children who display repetitive motions such as rubbing the body, rocking or sucking on objects may have experienced significant sensory deprivation and early neglect. The repetitious motions help calm their nerves. Your child may never leave behind all the symptoms of early neglect, but constant love and a healthy environment will help her find comfort in more natural ways.

For many adopted children, trauma has occurred in the context of a relationship, and their healing will also occur in the context of relationship. In many ways, the role of an adoptive parent has been modeled for us by Christ: Just as He “took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4), we can also help shoulder our children’s burdens and offer them hope.

Dynamic CTA Template Below

Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
Emerson-Eggerich4-840w

Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.
Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Read More About:

You May Also Like

Foster Care Legal System
Adoption

Foster Care and the Legal System

Understanding the legal system can be a challenge. In this article, an attorney clarifies the legal process of foster care – from the time a child enters foster care to the closure of a case.

Foster dad with daughters
Adoption

A Foster Care Story: The Father’s Perspective

I never really thought about foster parenting or adoption. I simply figured that I would one day marry and that my wife and I would together create a “traditional” family. My plan wasn’t actually a plan; it was an assumption.

Play Video

Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Play Video

Newest Release - Episode 2: Heroes Providing Hope

Discover the amazing work our PRC’s Directors, Nurses, and Volunteers are making in their communities! You’ll see firsthand testimonies of a PRC in action, and that there are other options outside of abortions! You’ll also discover how your family can support your local PRC!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Tell Your Story

By sharing your struggles and triumphs, God can transform your courage into hope and faith for others!