Posted by: icmadoptionnetwork | June 4, 2013

Strategies for Difficult Behaviors

Recently I found some great tips on the website that gave some parenting strategies for particular personalities and behaviors. There were two distinct personality types that I thought I would share here with you.

The first personality type is Very Intense Children. Many adopted children struggle with this character trait. As we know, children react to stressful and frightful situations in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze. Children who struggle with these very intense reactions fall into the “fight” response category. Many adopted children have previously lived in homes, on streets, or in institutions where they had to fight for what they had, so this is the way of life that they know. Here are some parenting strategies for Very Intense Children:

  • Provide activities that are soothing such as a bath, massage, water play, or stories.
  • Recognize cues that signal that intensity is rising within the child.
  • Help your child to be able to recognize when their own intensity level is rising.
  • Use humor to diffuse intensity when appropriate.
  • Teach your child to self-calm.
  • Avoid escalating the intensity of the child by reacting yourself in an intense manner. Give calm, clear, brief feedback.

The other personality type I wanted to address is Slow-To-Adapt children. Sometimes adopted children can easily get sensory overload. A few years ago I watched a film titled Hanna, about a girl who had been raised by her father in the wilderness with absolutely no connection to modern technology. When she finally has to go into the “real world,” she has a terribly nightmarish experience. In her hotel room, the TV is on quite loud, an electric kettle is boiling, the ceiling fan is humming, and florescent lights are buzzing. She goes into complete meltdown because of the sensory overload. I wish I could find this scene online somewhere and share it with you, but I have been unable to do so.

Many adopted children struggle with this kind of overload, and can be very slow to adapt to their new home, lifestyle, and family. I have had families experience complete meltdowns with their children for something that sounds as simple as an escalator.

Here are some tips and strategies for helping your child who might be Slow-To-Adapt:

  • Establish very clear routines and schedules so that your child knows what to expect.
  • When routine does change, discuss the changes with your child so they can prepare themselves.
  • Prepare your child for transitions, such as a new school. Visit the new school. Introduce them to teachers, etc.
  • Allow closure of one activity before moving to the next.

The number of changes and transitions that our adopted children face is more than we ourselves will likely ever experience in our lives. The easier we can make situations on them, and the more we can use experiences as learning tools, our children will hopefully be healthier children as a result.


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