Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome

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You have spent so much time preparing for adoption.  From the research you’ve done on figuring out the type of adoption you want, to attending classes/seminars to learn everything you can regarding adoption, to meeting with social workers in various aspects of adoption.  You’ve spent time making sure your home is safe and prepared for your child.   You’ve spent much time in meetings with your child’s team, ensuring their needs have been met, and you’ve prepared for the day to finally call this child your own!  It’s been a few months since the big day of adoption. You had a celebration with family and friends.  Since adoption finalization has occurred, your family has gotten into a routine of daily living.  The excitement of adopting your kiddo may have worn off and you begin to start feeling like you’re not yourself.  You may believe you should be happy, and you know there’s happiness in that you’ve expanded your family, thankful the journey of adoption has come to an end, but you feel different.  Maybe you’re experiencing guilt, anger, sadness, change in appetite and sleep, or even ambivalence.  Maybe you’re even wondering if it’s a case of the blues or if there is something more happening?

The term coined for these emotions is, Post Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS). Although it is more common in adoptive mothers, PADS can also affect adoptive dads.  PADS can be caused by varying reasons, including fears of not bonding the way in which parents hoped with their child, an underestimation in lifestyle changes that come from adoption, and fears of doubt and inadequacy as a parent.  Symptoms of PADS can be on a continuum for the time in which they arrive, as well as the severity of how PADS will affect a parent.  For example, symptoms of PADS may appear days to months to years after adoption and the severity of symptoms of PADS can range from minimal to severe.

Often times, parents suffer these symptoms alone, as many do not seek help for what they’re experiencing as they may not realize why they are feeling this way.  If you’re experiencing these differing symptoms, it’s important to speak with your doctor.  You may be treated similar to a parent that has postpartum depression, such as with antidepressants and therapy.  It may also be recommended for you to join a support group with adoptive parents who share similar experiences.  Self help tools can also be beneficial for parents who experience PADS.  Some of these tools include exercising, healthy eating, relaxation, and taking time for yourself to do something that is enjoyable.  Be sure to take care of yourself, so you can continue to be a rockstar of a parent!

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Attachment

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Parenting children, especially with special needs, can be quite a challenge to say the least.  I’m sure all of us parents can share a story of their child having a meltdown and being completely dumbfounded as to where the emotional outburst came from.  Maybe there was a time when your own parenting response was so surprising, it left you wondering, “Where did that come from?”  Have you ever considered your child’s and your response may have been from your attachments made within the first year of life?

What exactly is attachment and the theory behind it?  According to Psychology Today, attachment is defined as the emotional bond that forms between infant and caregiver, and it is the means by which the helpless infant gets primary needs met. It then becomes an engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development.  When referencing Attachment Theory Bowlby believes our earliest bonds with our caregivers has tremendous impact throughout our life span.  He also suggests these attachment bonds with mother increases a child’s chance of survival from a primitive standpoint.  The four stages of the Attachment Theory include the following:

  1. Pre-attachment stage occurs from birth to 6 weeks of life, during this time the infant shows no specific attachment to a caregiver.
  2. Indiscriminate stage occurs from 6 weeks to 7 months, during this time the infant begins to show preference for primary and secondary caregivers.
  3. Discriminate stage occurs at 7 months and up, during this time the infant shows a strong attachment to one specific caregiver.
  4. Multiple stage occurs at 10 months and up, during this time the infant begins growing attachments with other caregivers.

Some adoptive parents hold the belief that if they adopt a child at a young age and take the role as primary caregiver, the child’s attachment would not be disrupted and the child will not be effected later in life.  Bowbly’s theory challenges this idea and states the most significant attachments occur in the first year of life.  Ainsworth expanded of this theory linking attachment to behaviors observed in children ages 12 months to 18 months.  Based on her research four types of attachment styles can occur.

  1. A secure attachment exists when the caregiver consistently meets the child’s needs allowing the child to feel safe and secure in their environment, which encourages growth and exploration. An individual with a developed secure attachment can trust fairly easy, is emotionally in tune, can communicate feelings directly, and can lead relationships in a cooperative and flexible manor.
  2. An anxious attachment can develop when if the caregiver responds to the child’s needs in an inconsistent way, leading the child to becoming confused and insecure as they are unsure if their needs will be met or not. An individual with an anxious attachment is constantly worrying about rejection and needs reassurance, often preoccupied with relationships and often insecure about those relationships.
  3. A dismissive-avoidant attachment can develop when the caregiver is unresponsive to the child’s needs most of the time. This leads to the child learning caregivers are unreliable and develop skills on how to self-sooth.  An individual with a dismissive-avoidant attachment will actively seek out relationships, however, if the relationship gets too close for comfort it will lead them to push away.  These individuals tend to be extremely independent and rather than resolving issues with loved-ones, they are able to switch focus on other goals.
  4. A fearful-avoidant attachment can develop when the caregiver is unable to comfort the child or responds in a threating way. An individual with a fearful-avoidant attachment are often fearful of close relationships and tend to have negative views of their selves and others.

I can imagine this is a lot of information and may be overwhelming to process, but understanding your child, yourself, and even your partner will give you a better, more empathetic understanding to who they are as a person.  The good news is attachment styles can change throughout a lifespan as new neural connections are made, regardless of age.  Just holding the understanding of a loved one’s attachment style can encourage you to shift the way you interact with that person, which can ultimately initiate change.  My final tip is to understand changing attachment is not an overnight process.  It takes time, understanding, and a securely attached individual’s love, support, and patience.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW

Supporting Transracial Youth

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Transracial adoptees can often struggle with their racial identity as they may align with – the race and ethnicity they were born into, as well as the race and ethnicity which they’re adopted into.  Often transracial adoptees are seen as too much of the other race.  For example, they may be viewed as more of the race or ethnicity they were born into, or more of the race or ethnicity they were adopted into.  This leads transracial adoptees to feel as though they don’t belong in either culture, as though they’re stuck in the middle.  One of the responsibilities for parents in raising a transracial adoptee is assisting them in positive self-identity.  For parents to assist their child in gaining a sense of positive self-identity, there are a few steps that can be taken.

It’s important for parents to become aware of discrimination that may be present if their child is of a minority culture.  After becoming aware, it’s important to understand how these affect their child through their daily lives.  Parents should learn about how their child has seen or experienced discrimination within their culture and how this is affecting their child.  Listen to what they have to say, and allow for open and free discussion.  It’s also important for parents to believe what their child is saying.

Another way parents can support a positive self-identity is by advocating for their child.  Advocate on behalf of positive educational, religious, and social opportunities.  These opportunities should be inclusive, respectful, and sensitive to cultural diversity.  Advocate for the safety and well-being in all aspects of life.  Parents can also teach their child how to be safe when they become an adult.  This ties back into learning about how people in minority groups are treated.   For example, when becoming of age to drive, parents might need to teach their child to do certain precautions if pulled over by a cop.  A parent might also need to teach their child how to be safe if being followed by employees while shopping.

Parents can also show their child leaders of their cultural community.  These leaders can be both current and historical.  Encourage children to learn about the accomplishments these leaders have done.  Find articles, documentaries/movies, and books about these leaders.  If possible, parents can create an opportunity for their child to meet and spend some time with these leaders.  Along with this, it’s also important for parents to spend time educating their child about their culture’s history and taking part in their cultural community.  Spend time enjoying food, art, music, and religion from the child’s minority culture.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Not Just Surviving the Pandemic, but Thriving During It!

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Some people are taking advantage of this pandemic by cleaning and organizing rooms they have avoided, engaging in hobbies, cooking, exercising, etc. A huge kudos to them, what a great time to do these things! I can’t help but think about the parents raising children from trauma, trying to work from home, and helping their children with online schooling all at the same time?  We cannot expect to do this perfectly every day.  Some days we are just lucky to survive.

What is a good thing to take advantage of during these challenging days ahead?  Try strengthening your relationships with your children in times of crisis.  Sound impossible?  Let’s not just survive this pandemic, let’s thrive during it.  The strategy I will share is discussed in TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) created by Karyn Purvis and David Cross.

Children from trauma need structure, routine, predictability, and transitions, to be their best and thrive. They need physical activity, nutrition, hydration, and sensory input to keep their brain and bodies regulated.  We also know they need connection and communication to heal.

When we make mistakes with our children known as a ‘rupture’, we want to repair that mistake.  A big rupture and repair is explained in TBRI training. The rupture is the early-life trauma your child has experienced and the repair is the healing that occurs through relationship.  Parents and children experience many “mini rupture and repairs”.  These mini ruptures include things such as engaging in arguments, yelling, or other mistakes we make when we lose our temper and forget a connected way to respond to our child.  The repair occurs when you go back to your child, connect and apologize.  The rupture occurs because you’re in your downstairs brain (reacting to emotions) instead of your upstairs brain (thinking rationally and logically). The repairs to these ruptures are going back to connect with and apologize to your child once you are back in a regulated state and using your upstairs brain (thinking brain).

We don’t need to fear these mini ruptures or feel ashamed when they occur. It is through these mini ruptures and repairs that healing occurs.   You can view the ruptures as opportunities to connect with your child. When using any parenting strategy, it is not possible to do things perfectly. You will lose your temper, get upset and frustrated, and do things you regret.  That is part of being human.

What matters is what you do after you make the mistake.  Go back, apologize, and connect.  When you repair a rupture, you are modeling vulnerability, and identifying and sharing your emotions.  You are talking about the problem, apologizing for a mistake you made, and showing the other person they are valuable, precious, and loved.  You are modeling healthy, safe relationships.

What will your child learn from this modeling?  They too will learn to be vulnerable, identify and share their feelings, and talk about problems.  They will learn it is normal to make mistakes.  They learn it is safe to admit when they make a mistake.  The best part is the connection that happens when they feel loved, valued, and precious.

Even though this time of pandemic is difficult  to navigate, wouldn’t it feel great to come out of the crisis with a better relationship with your child?

For more information on this strategy google TBRI or watch TBRI or Karyn Purvis videos on Youtube, like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T43zJDgTNPA

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Sherie Madewell-Buesgens, LBSW

 

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