Five Things Adoptive Parents Don’t Tell You Part Three

“Your kids must be so thankful,” a lady remarked to me after our recent adoption.

“No, not really,” I replied.

She looked shocked, “but you think they would be because you rescued them from THAT orphanage.”

This brings me to number three in the series- Five things adoptive parents don’t tell you. (If you missed part two, you can find it here).

2. Our children are not excessively thankful, in fact, sometimes quite the opposite.

I understand what the kind lady thought. Common misconception. Adoptive children, you’d think would be full of undying gratitude. Thanking parents for rescuing them with round the clock obedience and gushings of “thanks, Mom and Dad, you saved me from life in an institution, foster care or, fill in the blank.  Wishful thinking. Not an accurate picture.

Things are not as they seem.

First of all, kids are kids. They may momentarily turn into thankful beings and then turn around and be disobedient. Totally normal.

Children who are adopted and taken from traumatic beginnings, i.e. hurt children may behave at the opposite end of the spectrum.

If a child has been abused, he has been given the message you are not valuable.

If a child has been neglected, he has been given the message you do not exist.

If a child has been rejected again and again, he believes he will be rejected again.

A child who has not attached to anyone does not have the ability to self-regulatehis emotions or his physical appetites. All of these traumas mentioned put a child into survival mode=that is they child will do anything -lie, cheat, steal, reject, to survive EVEN IF HE IS IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE HE NO LONGER NEEDS TO DO SO.

Son Gregory used to speak in an ugly, angry tone to everyone. He destroyed his siblings belongings, lied cheated, stole and made sure his needs/wants were met HIMSELF. Every night at bedtime, he told Jerry and me that he was going back to Poland to live in the orphanage.

No, he was not thankful. He didn’t know he didn’t have to live in survival mode anymore. He pushed us away to protect himself.  After some building blocks of attachment, his focus changed (when he felt safe). It didn’t happen overnight. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) thank us profusely for rescuing him.

And (at the age of six) he dictated a letter to Jerry:

When things look out of sorts, don’t give up!

Dear Dad,

I never go back to Poland, I promise. I love you.


Like I said, if you expect adopted children to be thankful, think again. Some of them have normal burst of thankfulness, like any other child and others, depending on the level and depth of their pain, will act ungrateful and form a wall of protection around themselves to survive. Be patient. Keep connecting. Those of you who work with adopted/foster children at church or school, don’t take their fussiness, meltdowns, shutdowns, pushing, shoving, lying or stealing, personally. They aren’t trying to get your goat or make life difficult. They are trying to survive at their present level of brain development and according to their ‘felt’ safety.

*Gregory does the rescuing now. He works an EMT and is pursuing further medical training in his college studies. The rescued becomes a rescuer.

Linking up with these gals today!  Join us!


12 thoughts on “Five Things Adoptive Parents Don’t Tell You Part Three

  1. Wow this was so moving and educational. It helps me even with meeting adults who act this way it is the same if they have never been healed they may still be in defense mode. Thank you so much for sharing this. Very proud of Gregory that is awesome what he does.

  2. Very wise words! Something even us adoptive parents need to remember.. I know sometimes it’s easy for us to tell others this but to remember it ourselves when we are in the midst of it all is always so hard..

  3. Such a great idea for a series. I really wish I could banish the phrase “he’s so lucky” from my life. Hearing stories like Gregory’s make me feel so hopeful for what lies ahead for my own son. You must be so proud!

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