Generally speaking, children grow into healthy, resilient, and regulated adults when surrounded by loving, caring and emotionally attuned parents.
But what is “emotional attunement”? It means using all of our senses to understand what our children are feeling so much that we feel it too. It requires being able to sense, interpret and respond to someone so that she/he doesn’t feel alone any longer.
When children feel understood by their parents, even when their behaviour is at their worst, not only do they develop a sense of safety and trust in their parents, but they also develop a healthy self-image as lovable and worthy individuals.
However, if children do not feel understood, they feel left alone with their pain or struggle. For adopted children, who already come with an emotional baggage stemming from their separation from their birth family, their new family’s lack of emotional attunement may implicitly translate to them as abandonment all over again. Of course, it is not the adoptive parent’s intention, but it is important to be aware of the extra-sensitivity of adopted children to anything that even remotely resembles rejection.
So, next time your child ‘misbehaves’, pause for a moment, take a few deep breaths, and try to feel why your child is struggling in this moment. What is (s)he feeling? What is (s)he needing from you right now? How can you show her/him that you can put yourself in her/his shoes and that you truly get it? How can you set boundaries and say ‘no’ to the behaviour while still saying ‘yes’ to the child?
Your adopted child will silently thank you for taking some time to reflect on these questions!
Keep up the good work! See you soon!