HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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She is adopted from Poland, and has a gypsy background...

The problem we have is our daughter is not under the Juvenile system in Singapore any longer. She knows it, and today the school phoned me to say that she does her utter best of getting expelled from school …also self mutilates so she can come back to Singapore and live her live of “FREEDOM” ...doing what she wants, when she wants, absolutely nothing affects her, when disciplined she runs away. Sleeps on the streets, goes clubbing, drinks, smokes and gets into drugs. Unknown friends help her….

By the way Mark she is adopted from Poland, and has a gypsy background. We have had her since she was 9 months.

Do we let her stay with us, lock all doors as she steals from us, comes and goes as she pleases? Send her to find a Job? No school in Singapore will take her.

She plays the role promises, signs whatever you want and on the first occasion runs away, does not care about consequences.

One month in The Singapore Girls Home in March and July are as quickly forgotten as a nightmare. She is a challenge for an experienced psychologist, and we have no idea why she makes the choices she does.

Her non-communicating attitude does not help, as we have already sent her 14 days to a psychological clinic for a diagnosis. Result, knows what she does and totally responsible for her actions.

So if we let go of the outcome, how can we possibly live with her at home in unbearable circumstances?

At the moment the whole situation affects my husband’s work, as he needs to take off every time we have a situation.

Thank you so much for your support, and I hope you can give us some advice for the handling of this impossible child.

Mr. & Mrs. G.

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Hi Mr. & Mrs. G.,

"Letting go of the outcome" does indeed include "letting go of her" (i.e., letting go of the daughter you hoped you would have had).

It would be much easier -- and a whole lot less painful -- to simply beat your head against a brick wall than it would be to allow her to continue to live in your home.

Troubled adopted children (like troubled non-adopted children) will often display observable signs that they need help. The following list shows a few possible indicators. If your adopted daughter exhibits just one or two of the problems described in this section (with the exception of the last four items on the list), she may have a temporary problem. But if three or more of these problems show up, or any of the last four, she may only improve with several years of professional help:

  • Association with undesirable friends
  • Change in sleep habits (needing too little sleep or sleeping all the time)
  • Deteriorating personal hygiene
  • Frequent lying or evasion
  • Lack of friends
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or friends
  • Obsession with fears and worries
  • Persistent “orphanage behavior,” such as rocking or head-banging that occurs beyond the toddler years
  • Serious drop in grades
  • Slow physical or mental development
  • Sudden loss of appetite or extremely increased appetite
  • Runs away for extended periods of time
  • Physical violence or attacks
  • Antisocial behavior such as stealing, starting fires, or harming animals
  • Self-injurious behavior (cutting or harming oneself)
  • Substance abuse

Perhaps one of the major oversights adoptive parents make -- one that agencies fail to adequately prepare parents for -- is the role anger plays in the life of the adopted child. Many parents that I consult with mistakenly believe that a loving, stable home is enough for the adopted child …that a good home environment will make better all the losses or traumas from the past. To the adopted child, however, love isn't enough. They have lost a great deal and they typically get little validation for this from those around them. Instead, many get the message they should stop wallowing and be grateful.

Those of us who weren't adopted cannot fully grasp the meaning of being given away. As I work with adoptive parents on listening to their child, this issue becomes paramount. From the adult perspective, the adopted child was taken out of an unsafe environment and this should be seen as good. From the child's point of view, however, something very valuable was taken away: their home, their identity, and their family.

Children are quite adept at communicating their feelings. Strange as it is, adults consistently miss the messages. For the adopted child, anger is his way of communicating feelings of loss, grief, fear, and terror. Unfortunately, these messages get misinterpreted and the child subsequently gets labeled as defiant.

Most Americans who adopt children from other countries find joy. But others aren't prepared for the risks—and may find themselves overwhelmed. I am certainly not suggesting that adults stop adopting children. Nor am I insinuating that every adopted child will have behavioral or emotional disturbance. What I am pointing out, however, is that the needs and concerns of adopted children are unique. When we truly listen to the adopted child, we can better understand how he or she is attempting to make sense out of a life where they are asked to relinquish one identity and assume another. Further, by being sensitive to the inner reality of the adopted child, we let them know we understand how confusing it can be to live in a world of ghosts, surrogate parents, and loss.

Adoption triggers five lifelong or core issues, regardless of the circumstances of the adoption or the characteristics of the participants:

  1. Grief
  2. Guilt and shame
  3. Identity problems
  4. Intimacy problems
  5. Sense of loss

It is not my intent here to question adoption, but rather to challenge some adoption assumptions, specifically, the persistent notion that adoption is not different from other forms of parenting and the accompanying disregard for the pain and struggles inherent in adoption.

Adoption is created through loss; without loss there would be no adoption. Loss, then, is at the hub of the wheel. Adopted children suffer their first loss at the initial separation from the birth family. Awareness of their adopted status is inevitable. Even if the loss is beyond conscious awareness, recognition, or vocabulary, it affects the adoptee on a very profound level. Any subsequent loss, or the perceived threat of separation, becomes more formidable for adopted children than their non-adopted peers.

The grief process in adoption, so necessary for healthy functioning, is further complicated by the fact that there is no end to the losses, no closure to the loss experience. Loss in adoption is not a single occurrence. There is the initial, identifiable loss and innumerable secondary sub-losses. Loss becomes an evolving process, creating a theme of loss in both the individual's and family's development. Those losses affect all subsequent development.

Adopted children seldom are able to view their placement into adoption by the birthparents as anything other than total rejection. Adopted children even at young ages grasp the concept that to be "chosen" means first that one was "un-chosen," reinforcing adopted children' lowered self-concept. Society promulgates the idea that the "good" adoptee is the one who is not curious and accepts adoption without question. At the other extreme of the continuum is the "bad" adoptee who is constantly questioning, thereby creating feelings of rejection in the adoptive parents.

Adopted children suggest that something about their very being caused the adoption. The self-accusation is intensified by the secrecy often present in past and present adoption practices. These factors combine to lead the adoptee to conclude that the feelings of guilt and shame are indeed valid.

Adopted children lacking medical, genetic, religious, and historical information are plagued by questions such as: Who are they? Why were they born? Were they in fact merely a mistake, not meant to have been born, an accident? This lack of identity may lead adopted children, particularly in adolescent years, to seek out ways to belong in more extreme fashion than many of their non-adopted peers. Adolescent adopted children are over represented among those who join sub-cultures, run away, become pregnant, or totally reject their families.

Adopted children are keenly aware that they were not party to the decision that led to their adoption. They had no control over the loss of the birth family or the choice of the adoptive family. The adoption proceeded with adults making life-altering choices for them. This unnatural change of course impinges on growth toward self-actualization and self-control. Adolescent adopted children, attempting to master the loss of control they have experienced in adoption, frequently engage in power struggles with adoptive parents and other authority figures. They may lack internalized self-control, leading to a lowered sense of self-responsibility. These patterns, frequently passive/aggressive in nature, may continue into adulthood.

I know this information doesn’t help you solve any problems, but I hope it helps you understand your daughter a bit better.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

1 comment:

GDOBSSOR R said...

Also, I would add to the information above that the brain does a lot of growing in the first 3 to 4 years of life. If a child is deprived of love or abused in the early years, then the damage to their brain is done. It is very difficult and needs a very understanding and patient therapist to reverse. Spending 9 months in a Russian orphanage would mean that while the child wasn't necessarily abused or neglected physically, they were probably neglected emotionally.

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