Common Problems with Adopted Children - Marrison Family Law

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Common Problems with Adopted Children

Friday, 31 August 2012

adopted_childrensAnyone who has ever considered adoption has wondered about the problems that might come up.  Will the child eventually want to meet his or her birth parents?  Will they feel as close you when they grow up as they did when they were children?  How will it affect them when they realize they cannot inherit your personality, facial features or good health?  Truth is, most adopted kids are just as close to their parents as biological children.  Apparently “nurture” is just as influential as “nature,” but that doesn’t mean the child won’t have leftover issues from their previous living situation.

If you have adopted children, particularly kids who were adopted after age 2, it’s important to be aware of some potential difficulties that might occur. This doesn’t necessarily mean your children will be susceptible to them, but it is important to know which problems are common among adopted children.  You may recognize some of these disorders, but none of these need to be handled alone.  Adoption professionals and counselors can help parents and children work through these issues.
  • General problems with adjustment
  • Learning disorders
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Adjusting to a new reality

When confronting general adjustment problems, adoptive parents need to be ultra-sensitive to the child’s needs.   In some cases, adjustment can involve adapting to a new family, a new culture and a new language all at the same time.  Children from other countries may experience symptoms of anxiety, grieving for the past, racial isolation and difficulty with communication.  When parents take the initiative to prepare for short-term counseling and begin to look at adjustment problems seriously, the first weeks and months go much smoother.  However, there is still a possibility that the child will develop anxiety or depression at some point.  Remember, many of the common problems you’re dealing with as an adoptive parent were once the domain of the orphanage and they don’t always go away when the child is adopted.

Dealing with learning problems

Learning disorders can take many forms, but many of them stem from unresolved depression and anxiety.  It is better to deal with the root causes of an adopted child’s learning disability than to simply address the symptoms.  Many parents make the mistake of believing every difficulty their adopted child faces is due to inherited characteristics.  With older children, parents may believe the experience in the orphanage had an impact.  While both of these may be true, some learning disorders can only be resolved through a combination of instruction and counseling.

What is “Reactive Attachment Disorder?”

When children have gone without sufficient care in the first few years of live or they’ve been moved from caretaker to caretaker as small children, they may have a deep sense of loss.  Reactive Attachment Disorder, also known as RAD, is often overused as a diagnosis for other problems, but it may appear in many forms.  These include superficially charming behavior, sneakiness, destructive behaviors, chronic dishonesty and a lack of conscience.  Children with RAD may have poor or no impulse and lack “cause and effect” thinking.  They may feel like they are in a constant struggle for control, which may result in poor relationships with peers and demanding or clingy behavior.  When caregivers and psychologists treat these children for the root cause of the problem, rather than the symptoms, great progress can be made.

Diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is most commonly associated with soldiers returning from war, but it is not limited to military service members.  It can be caused by sudden or unexpected events that are beyond an individual’s control.  In some adoptions, where children are separate from their biological family due to abuse or neglect, it can be characterized as an “extremely traumatic” experience for the children.  Children often react to the trauma by blaming themselves, which can result in dramatic changes in their behavior.  For example, some children with PTSD are easily startled and hyper-vigilant.  They change their sleep and toileting habits and they startle easily, or they exhibit avoidance behaviors.  Regardless of the reason, the loss of a parent or departure of a loved caretaker may be experienced as a traumatic experience by youngsters, and they are likely to believe it’s their own fault.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is also common among some adopted children. Some of it may be neurological or genetic. Some of it may be symptomatic based on the child’s efforts to deal with other issues such as the stresses or losses mentioned above. A child psychologist can help determine the cause so that treatment will be effective.  Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty sustaining attention, difficulty waiting for their turn in groups and shifting from one uncompleted task to the next.  If your child talks excessively and doesn’t seem to listen, see a professional; it may be treatable through counseling and medication.

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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