International adoption is becoming more common today. The proliferation of orphaned or abandoned children from developing nations has spurred American would-be parents to open their hearts and their homes. No adoption is easy, but adopting a child from a different culture can be especially challenging. It is crucial for parents to develop a deep connection with an adopted child. It is equally critical to help the child develop her own sense of identity, which leads to a healthy level of resiliency to handle the many challenges she will face. Having a strong support system and professional consultation can help adoptive families persevere and thrive.
The issue of attachment is complex, and is the subject of debate among counseling professionals. When a child fails to attach to her adoptive parents, serious complications are likely. Emotional development becomes delayed, and the child’s self-esteem suffers. Left unchecked, she may act out in extreme ways. Attachment therapy is critical to help adoptive families cope with the issues of grief and loss that underlie these common complications.
Helping a Child Develop Identity and Resiliency
Healthy levels of attachment are a requirement for any adoptee to successfully navigate the challenges of growing up. Identity issues are an added problem for cross-cultural adoptees, however. Even at a young age, your adopted daughter will perceive that she’s different somehow from her parents and siblings, and potentially different from most of her peers. Parents may (consciously or unconsciously) seek to minimize or even ignore cultural differences in their adopted child. This can create tension and stress for everyone. Encouraging your new daughter to acknowledge and celebrate her own identity, whatever it may be, communicates a level of love and acceptance that she will need all her life.
How to Recognize Issues and Seek Help
Experts advise parents to be proactive and anticipate the potential problems that arise. First-time parents are prone to idealizing the experience, setting themselves up for the unpleasant surprise of reality. Fortunately, most of these challenges are known and predictable, and parents simply need to educate themselves and prepare for the worst. Most children in our communities are not adopted, and they resemble their parents and siblings. Cross-cultural adoptees typically experience challenges related to these most basic social assumptions. Identify counselors, therapists and other service providers to whom you can turn when things get rough. Joining support groups of other adoptive families can provide valuable assistance and information as well.
In many cases, adoptive children experience emotional and mental challenges that require a little extra help and attention, including reactive attachment disorder, depression, anxiety and other developmental problems. Havenwood Academy specializes in providing residential treatment and therapeutic intervention for girls. If you have adopted cross-culturally and are facing significant parenting challenges, contact Havenwood to discuss the implications of international adoption and how they can help.