Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chapter 5

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The Warm Rock - Quiet, withdrawn, sleeping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?


Mendy Twigg said...

I have some bottles I can loan We are meeting with the attachment therapist next Monday night. I will let you know how it goes. However I talked to your new doctors wife the other day and she wasn't that impressed with them. They went to them a few years back. Oh well, worth a shot. Happy Thanksgiving.

Mendy Twigg said...

I just went to Julia's blog. That was taken from the web site I have been telling you about. It has a lot of good info on it.

waitingarms said...

I am not sure if the book discusses Internal and External locus of control, but I thought this was an interesting discussion during our pre-adoptive classes. The instructor shared that Americans emphasis
self-sufficiency and independence in child rearing while most other cultures emphasize identity through group. This impacts behavior in different ways. While an American child is taught from an early age to be independent and control his own behavior, in other societies, children’s behavior is controlled by the group expectations. For instance, a child growing up in Africa modifies his behavior in public because he knows other around him will discipline him which means his locus of control is external. The child raised in America is taught to internalize his locus of control and he modifies his behavior based on his internal value system. An example the instructor gave was her first day teaching a 6th grade class that comprised mainly foreign born students. All her training had taught her that the students would be seated and eager to learn. However, as soon as she entered the class all the students ran outside to play or went to the bathroom and there went all her years of training! She had been expecting all the children to have an internal locus of control. The principal advised her that the children’s behavior was determined by the group and she had to assert herself and be their locus of control. She had to revise her methodology and it has helped her in years of teaching at a college with a large international student body. I am not sure if this is helpful with Josh and Jameson. I like the baby bottle solution though! Better yet if done in public. That is a great "external" locus of control!

Sorry, I did not mean to write a book, guess I was trying to justify tax dollars spent on sending me to three pre-adoptive classes :)! I am not really good at relaying info I learnt! But I tried—this session took three hours!

jen said...

I've been peeking in here recently, but this is the first chapter of this book that I have noticed, and I can see that I am going to have to go back and read everything you have written. Wow! There was so much in this one post that I could relate to...and so much that I wish our friends knew about what is going on with our kids' sometimes strange or misleading behaviors. I know they sometimes think I am nuts to be asking for prayer for attachment and such when "it looks like the kids are doing SOOOOOOO well!"

Thanks for sharing this!