So I’ve had MaryJane for nearly a month now living in my house (not real name) and it’s been quite an experience!
Once she moved in, it felt so surreal as all outside communications seemed to have stopped. She’s with me now so what do I do? I tried to maintain the routine as much as possible and we seemed to be getting along quite fine. The social workers visited once a week to get feedback and offer assistance but they weren’t there when the problematic behaviour started occurring.
So I started doing my own research and decided to put a list together for other people who might be struggling too.
Increased Levels of Anxiety
- We all know that going through any type of transitions is hard – even for adults – but I’ve seen some patterns of anxiety popping up to the surface in the most calm settings. For example: chilling in the garden and Mary Jane would say – I think all social workers are liars and start crying. When asked to elaborate further, I would be shut down.
- We had real issues when the school started as Mary Jane was showing signs of “Separation Anxiety Disorder” – which is a thing for adopted children. Most kids have it between the ages of 6-7 months to 3 years but this 8 year old had all the symptoms:
- According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), separation anxiety disorder is an excessive display of fear and distress when faced with situations of separation from the home or from a specific attachment figure. The anxiety that is expressed is categorized as being atypical of the expected developmental level and age. Mary Jane had a hard time saying goodbye to me and exhibited extreme behaviors like tightly clinging in a way that makes it nearly impossible me to get detached from her. Imagine a barnacle..
- I had to bribe her with a Pokemon doll for 6 hassle free drop-offs. It seems to be working fine so far.
- I explicitly wanted a kid which exhibited no sexualised behaviour due to the large amount of negative adoption outcomes I’ve read online. And the kid I was matched to had none on file. Guess what – a few weeks in she starts doing some weird shit.
- Watching me undress and trying to peep in women’s lockers
- Touching my boobs after repeatedly being told I’m not OK with it (I mean I would punch a guy for the same move she tried to pull on me)
- She climbed on my back when I was reading to her and started rubbing her entire body (mostly her crotch) on the lower side of my back (I threw her off quickly and made sure I’ve told her I’m not OK with that.
- Worst off – she started playing with her freaking nipples when watching Rio 2. Told her twice to knock it off only to have her twirling her fingers and pulling on her nips. She then started massaging her boobs together and even tried licking them! I was so appalled and basically told her to stop in in a harsher tone than I actually would have wanted to use and put a vest top over her. Next day she proceeds to show me some badly inflamed nipples and ask me “what’s wrong with these?”.. I was speechless
- So I did what any normal adult would do and researched the shit out of this behaviour and found out it’s mostly common. Kids usually learn how to play with their bodies at a young age and when they trust their adult, they will continue doing so.
Young children from 5 to 9 years
As children get a little older they become more aware of the need for privacy while also:
- kissing and hugging
- showing curiosity about private body parts but respecting privacy
- talking about private body parts and sometimes showing them off
- trying to shock by using words like poo, willy and bum
- using swear and sex words they’ve heard other people say
- playing “house” or “doctors and nurses” type games with other children
- touching, rubbing or showing others their private parts
- I did fire off an email to the social worker which remained unanswered to ask whether MaryJane has been exhibiting such behaviour before and whether she was exposed to adult situations (or adult movies).
How to react to sexualised behaviour
If you’re too disapproving or imply that sex shouldn’t be spoken about then your child may be less likely to come to you with any questions or worries they might have.
Of course, this won’t be easy for everyone, especially if your child’s behaviour seems shocking or morally wrong to you. But try to keep calm. Your body language and tone can make a difference. The way you react can affect how comfortable your child will feel about talking to you about these things in the future.
Talking about wanting to be with their birth family
One thing that I still struggle with are daily questions about her birth family which pretty much tell me she doesn’t want to be adopted. Hard truth to bare especially if she had no choices in the life she’s been pushed into. Questions might range from:
- Why can’t I go to my birth mom and dad now that I’m not in Foster care anymore?
- When can I meet them again?
- When I’m 13 I’m gonna make a Facebook account and look for them (that’s a hard one)
- Why can’t you go and take me to see them?
- They weren’t bad parents, the social workers lied about them to steal me away
- The social workers didn’t tell me it would be like this
- They would take me back right now if they knew where I was
- They love me very much and they were just in a bad spot a few years ago
- They kept me safe. That’s what parents do. (She was adopted due to severe neglect).
It hurts quite a bit that this child you end up loving doesn’t see you as a permanent fixture in their lives, merely as a stepping stone to get back to their birth family. So all the effort and time you’re putting in will benefit somebody else in the end.
Increased Disobedience and Defiance (Oppositional Defiance Disorder)
Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD, are characterized by their defiance, hostility and disobedience.
Oh wow, this was the hardest to deal with. She doesn’t take my word for anything and will fight or scream or cry in frustration. She would throw things. She refuses to go to the timeout corner. She will scream and cry and hurl all sorts of things at you. Me being a stubborn ass disciplinarian at heart, will dish out a punishment and not budge on it – causing more crying and tantrums.
What I noticed, if I ask nicely and politely with a “please” injected in there, I get one response. “No”. Or “you do it”. Which definitely rubbs me the wrong way. If I tell her “You do this and this and this” she will go steam mode and say “You can’t tell me what to do”, “I don’t want to do it”, “You’re forcing me to do this” etc.
I’ve tried the stick and the carrot and none seem to work too well. I tried talking about responsibilities and chores and things we need to do to progress development and I’ve been hit with a wall of uncomprehending stares.
Every action, reaction, and emotion is taken further with our kids a majority of the time. Why? Because of all the things I write about; fear, need for control, inability to process, inability to focus, attention on something else, not on behavior, etc.
So I narrowed it down to desire to exert control and not being able to since I won’t let her. She’s tried to “parent” me and tell me what to do and I had to remind her that she’s the child here and I’m the adult so she doesn’t get to tell me what to do.
The trick is to stay calm. Explain once, explain twice, walk away. Do not engage in a screaming match. Leave them time to calm down and find their balance. Once they’ve calmed down, go and explain again.
I’ll give one example: We went to a birthday party last weekend. She wanted to wear a lipstick she got from her foster carer. An Adult Bright Fuchisa lip stick. I told her nope. No way she can wear it. Tears started. Pleading, bargaining. and then Yelling: “You can’t tell me what to do, it’s my lipstick, I got it, I get to wear it when I want. It’s my body” * sigh * I think the teenage years are gonna be a blast.
Took the lipstick away, told her we’ll talk again about wearing makeup when she’s 13 or older and that’s that.
“You wanna make me ugly!”
I had to stop here a bit. There is quite a culture of trying to get younger and younger girls into makeup and there are loads of apps for girls on how to put on lipstick, how to make lipsticks and how to do eye shadow.
“We are raising another generation of girls who kind of measure their self-worth based on what’s on the outside,” Dr. Logan Levkoff, author of the book “Third Base Ain’t What it Used to Be” said to “Good Morning America.”
She’s 8! She shouldn’t even be thinking about putting anything on other than her natural beauty! I think her birth mom was one of the culprits here as she gave Mary Jane loads of makeup kids with freaking Frozen princesses on it! WTF. When she calmed down, she said she’s not upset about the makeup, “it’s not the end of the world”.
So here I am at the end of my first month thinking – what the hell did I get myself into? I wanted a child which I could mould into a mini-me but instead I got a lil frowning banshee who has her good moments and has her bad ones on a daily basis. Doesn’t say anywhere on the adoption pamphlets that you’ll have to be cunning, remember your words very clearly and not to give in into manipulation attempts from an 8 year old who would try to change even the order of the elements of the evening routine.
I’m still holding on but here’s something I wish I knew.
20% of all adoptions of children over the age of 7 break down. Kids run away to birth family during the puberty stages, they break off from their main carers and get into trouble with the police as they refuse to be parented. Only kids who have been with their adoptive parents for more than 11 years before hitting puberty show no signs of breaking off.
So I’m kinda wondering whether I’m going to be the odd bird with a cuckoo egg in my nest.