When an adopted child is misbehaving or acting out and the parents ask other adoptive parents why, they are often told that biological children do this too. I understand that they mean children who are raised in their biological families misbehave or act out too. That whatever is happening is typical as the child moves through the different cognitive stages to test out boundaries and have shifts in emotions.
Yet, I can’t help but cringe every time I hear this advice.
It is perfectly natural that an adopted child would act like biological children do at the different childhood cognitive stages, because we are biological children. We’ll go through the same stages children raised in their biological family will, act out, push boundaries, be sassy, moody, you name it, we’ll go through that stage.
But there is more when you are adopted.
Being adopted adds complexity to a child’s normal developmental stages, added layers that can be missed because you were just told to treat it as if the child was biological and not to worry because it’s just a stage. We have added layers (feelings and things to process) because we are adopted on top of what children do at a particular stage/age. One or more of those added layers may also be in play at that stage. Parents need to be aware of the layers, look at both the current situation and history, and see if one (or more) of those added layers are part of the reason the child is acting that way, or even the driver of that action. If you don’t, and it does include adoption feelings, you won’t be there to walk through it with your child, they will do it alone.
I read ‘Being Adopted – The Lifelong Search for Self‘ by David M Brodzinsky, Ph. D., Marshall D. Schechter, M.D., & Robin Marantz Henig years ago. The way they describe the different cognitive developmental stages and stages across the lifetime and how the layers come into play was spot on to me. It’s an easy read for adoptive parents, as in, you won’t want to throw the book across the room. If you want to be more aware of the added layers your child may experience, this book is a handy reference.
This is an old post about this book: One of my favorite books…