Adopted children often come from troubled homes where they may have experienced some form of trauma. Unfortunately, even a trauma that happens in utero or early childhood can have lasting effects. They might have problems trusting others and connecting with others. They might lash out in anger or engage in reckless activities. Ultimately, they are trying to find a way to feel safe in a world that hasn’t made sense to them.
If your adopted child is suddenly acting out, there are some strategies that you can use to help them learn to manage their behavior. If you find that their behavior is entirely out of control or they are a danger to themselves or others, you may need more serious interventions. Some teens benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school where they can work with trained therapists every day.
How to help your adopted child manage their behavior
When disciplining an adopted child, it’s essential to learn what is helpful and what is harmful. Some traditional discipline methods that work well for biological children won’t have the same effect for adopted children. Remember, your adopted child has likely endured some form of trauma that distinctly affects their view of the world.
Have honest conversations
Some adopted teens act out because they are frustrated and don’t know how to express their feelings. Your adopted teen might have a lot of questions. They might want to know more about their birth parents or about how you came to be their new parents. If your child has lived with you since they were little kids, maybe you didn’t want to give them all of the details at first. Some of it may have been too much to explain to a small child.
As a teenager, though, your child needs to understand where they came from and who they are. Help them understand the overarching view of what led to them being adopted. Ensure that they know that being given up for adoption doesn’t mean that they weren’t worthy of love. It means that their birth parents weren’t equipped to be parents.
Let them know that they are loved
Children who feel abandoned when they are young can develop intimacy issues as they grow up. They might have trouble trusting that you won’t leave them if they mess up too much. They might also struggle to feel worthy of love and acceptance.
Even when your child is getting on your last nerve, make sure they know that you still love them. They will likely try to test your boundaries to see if you mean it. Help them understand that some people can be trusted and that you love them even when they behave poorly.
Avoid harmful punishments
You need to address negative behaviors, but you should avoid harmful punishments. Since many adopted children come into their new home with abandonment issues or a history of abuse, avoid punishments that reinforce those experiences. This means you should never use corporal punishments. Likewise, don’t issue punishments that make them feel more isolated from the family.
Even if those punishments worked well for your biological children in the past, they likely won’t work well for your adopted child. When you issue punishments that bring back memories of trauma, they won’t learn what you want them to learn. They are more likely to slip into a defensive mode to make themselves feel safe. Don’t let bad behavior slide, but don’t use punishments that might trigger past traumatic memories either.
Stay consistent with your rules and consequences
Many adopted children come from homes that were chaotic. They did not feel stable and were unsure of what to expect from the adults around them. So, you’ll need to provide consistency for them. When you set rules, stick to them. When you set consequences for breaking those rules, stick to them. As your child learns that you mean what you say and that you are dependable, they are less likely to act out.
If your adopted child is suddenly acting out and you have tried everything you can think of to curb their behavior, you may need additional help. The therapists at Sundance Canyon Academy are trained to work with students from turbulent backgrounds. They work with students individually and in groups to teach life skills and behavior management techniques.
Contact us today to find out how our school could help your son.