This chapter in Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child is about resiliency and reactive coping behaviors.
The chapter starts out talking about how the life of an adopted child changes so dramatically. In one day... they are suddenly immersed in an almost dream-like life. And their little lives are never the same again. Wow. My friend Julia wrote about the same subject last week. It really helps to think about it in their perspective. You can read her post here. It's awesome.
People react to stress in two different ways. This book describes this as revving up and shutting down. The revving up stage is the fight or flight where one prepares for battle. The other response is shutting down. This is "playing dead" or appearing to be asleep. Internationally adopted kids can go between both behaviors. The purpose of these behaviors is their own protection and an attempt to gain balance in their physiological and emotional states.
This book describes 5 reactive coping pattern. It's so funny because I can see the kids in all of these roles at one time or another.
The Warm Rock - Quiet, withdrawn, sleeping
The Stunned Rag Doll - Spacy, frozen, limp
The Dizzy Performer - Active: performing and charming, overly friendly to adults
The Royal Boss - Controlling and demanding; may throw tantrums
The Unwilling Guest - Rejecting and sad; waiting, searching, or calling; or hyper-alert
This chapter really helped me to identify which of these behaviors my kids display and to try to figure out what's behind those behaviors. I can remember when we first got home, and Jameson was SO friendly. She was all over everyone all the time. She had no qualms about going with anyone. Everyone kept saying, "Oh, she's doing so well." And she was, and yet... I kept thinking, "that's just not right" It bothered me that she appeared to be attached to me, until I saw that she was JUST as attached to everyone else who crossed her path. I think this is somewhat better, but perhaps there will always be a bit of dizzy performing in her. At least now, she pretends to be shy and hide behind me before she performs for the stranger. Josh defintely takes on more of the more quiet behaviors.
What the behaviors mean:
Warm Rock - Shuts down to manage overstimulation, feels rejected or inadequate.
Stunned Rag Doll - Shuts down to think about the past and be disconnected from the future
Dizzy Performer - Active and revved up, overstimulated, in denial about major life changes
Royal Boss - Controlling, revving, helpless, frightened and out of control
Unwilling Guest - Rejecting, alternately revving and shutting down with grief, loss, sadness, and anger, waiting to be "found," or searching for lost caregiver
"Children with complex backgrounds tend to revert to their old coping behaviors and survival skills."
They are unable to generalize their connection and resilency behaviors from one day to the next. You may have progress on one day and then be right back where you started the next day. I think this is where our frustration comes in. We will finally see progress and then attempt to relax a little. Then the old behaviors are right back again. This book does a good job at telling what to do with your new baby, such as feeding from a bottle. But, as usual, strategies for older children are lacking. I am obviously not going to feed my 9 and 11 year old a bottle or hand feed them like a baby. But they are right on as far as figuring out what's behind the behavior. I know that at times when Josh acts like the warm rock, I tend to pull away from him thinking that he probably needs his space. In looking at it, if he is feeling rejected and then I pull away, it's probably adding to his problem. Perhaps when Josh is a stunned rag doll and stuck in the past, I need to help him to think about his future. I need to help him to see his future... to give him hope. Anyway, we'll give it a shot. If not, I guess I can look for some baby bottles. I'm sure he'd really think I was crazy if I tried to rock him and feed him a bottle wouldn't he?