*This is an excerpt from the Five Things E-course that is currently taking place!
1.3 Our children are not excessively thankful, in fact, sometimes quite the opposite.
“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.”
* * *
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-regulate his emotions or his physical appetites. All of these traumas mentioned put a child into survival mode, that is the 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. There new normal doesn’t replace old habits. Let’s not forget the old normal was their life, for good, bad or worse. Just because they have been ‘rescued’ doesn’t mean they wanted to be.
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.
When things look out of sorts, don’t give up!
And (at the age of six) he dictated a letter to me for Jerry:
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 bursts of thankfulness, like any other child. 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 make life difficult. They are trying to survive at their present level of brain development and according to their ‘felt’ safety.