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Corrie Lynne O. Player

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Adopted children have unique needs
By Corrie Lynne O. Player   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, April 12, 2007
Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2007

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“Mamma,” sobbed 4-year-old Amy, “if I’m so bad, are you going to send me back?”

“Mamma,” sobbed 4-year-old Amy, “if I’m so bad, are you going to send me back?”
Amy had been adopted six months earlier, after shuffling between five foster homes and her alcoholic, natural mother. Her words shocked her adoptive mom, who had simply reprimanded her for scattering toys and kicking over the dog’s water dish. But Amy was voicing what many adopted children feel—the insecurity that comes with knowing their position in the family is different from the average child’s.
When any child is brought home, parents wonder what to do next. All first-time parents feel the same way, even in the recovery room, as they look at that bit of life that has become their sole responsibility.
Parents of adopted children are challenged and rewarded in ways unknown to biological parents. Parents of an adopted child quickly learn how adopted children differ from birth children. Besides having the same needs and frustrations as any growing child, adopted children worry about their place in the family and wonder about biological parents.
Reacting to the adoption depends on whether the child is a newborn or older, whether the child is from another country or racial group and whether other children are already in the family.
Today, I’d like to tell you about Becky Patterson (not her real name). Becky and her husband adopted a 3-day-old baby boy. The Pattersons were on five agency waiting lists and married 11 years before little David came to them.
Becky brought David to a party when he was two weeks old; he wore a miniature camouflage suit, complete with tiny boots. He was held and bounced and passed around, and exclaimed over. Becky watched proudly but wearily. She told her friends that David never slept more than an hour at a time. He also screamed between and during feedings. She changed his formula twice, but he still screamed.
David’s distress was part of a cycle that started because his mom was rested rather than worn out from giving birth. Becky didn’t realize that when a woman’s pregnant, she slows down. After Baby is born, Mom’s stomach sags and she’s tired. New moms don’t do much socially for a few weeks.
This slower time gives Mom a chance to get used to Baby and develop a nap schedule to make up for wakeful nights. Nobody over-stimulates Baby, because everybody is too tired. As the house develops a schedule, based on Mom’s recuperation, Baby’s needs are also met. The adopted baby, however, enters a home that has anticipated his/her arrival for years. Both parents are active and rested. Baby is showered with gifts; Mom and Dad buy musical teddy bears, bathtub boats and twirling mobiles.
But the adopted baby has been through labor and delivery—even if Mom hasn’t. Little David needed quiet, uninterrupted sleep, a relatively germ-free environment, and gentle, consistent handling. David came into an atmosphere different from his prenatal growth. Since he wasn’t used to his new parents’ germs, he had less immunity to colds and flu and needed time to develop resistance. He also needed bonding to help him learn who his mom and dad were. When too many people participated in his care, he became confused and upset.
Becky had treated David like an exciting toy. As soon as she used his needs to curtail her activities, he became more content, and her nerves lost their frazzle.
I’m working on a book about raising adopted children; if you’re willing to share experiences and tips, please email me at Put “adoption book” into the subject line. I’ll talk about unique needs of adopted children in a future column, including handling cultural issues, sibling rivalry and curiosity about birth families.

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