Effective Strategies for Adopting a Child Who Has Been Abused
Adopting and providing a home for a child who has suffered abuse or trauma can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it can also be fraught with difficulty, causing anxiety and frustration. Here are some things to understand about children who have been abused, as well as some tips for helping them adjust to a new life and build a relationship based on trust.
The Effect of Abuse
Abuse can take many forms, from physical or mental abuse to neglect or abandonment. Many children of abuse have not learned how to develop a bond or attachment with others, either because the people with whom they would have bonded are a threat to their safety, or because those persons don’t provide a consistent frame of reference for healthy attachment. As a result, a child of abuse may not know how to form a healthy attachment. Additionally, the child’s behavior may be triggered by events familiar to the child, but not familiar to you, things as simple as turning up the volume on a television or stereo (something that may have been used to mask the sound of violence in the child’s earlier life).
Because a child of abuse has not learned any other way of coping with scary events, the typical response to anything new or intimidating may be “fight or flight.” As a result, a adopted child who has been exposed to abuse may be prone to violence or to simply disappearing, physically or emotionally (or both).
Strategies for Working with a Child of Abuse
An abused child has a history of insecurity and uncertainty. Here are some ways that you can help build the trust necessary to have a healthy relationship:
- Establish and follow a routine—Consistency and stability will help break down barriers
- Help your adopted child trust you by being a good role model—Trust is a two-way street. Children learn trust by observing trust, by being trusted.
- Help your adopted child feel his or her emotions—Emotions that are not acknowledged don’t go away. If your child is angry, sad or hurt, let them express those feelings, but also let them know that they are loved.
- Don’t take it personally—Your adopted child’s behavior toward you is not just about you. It’s a product of the child’s life experience. Stay calm and positively focused.
Contact Attorney Joanne E. Kleiner
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