Parenting

Behavior issues HELP

I think I might XP this on the adoption board.

My SIL just adopted three children, around the ages of 20 months, 6 years, and 7 years. Everyone who heard about it prior to the adoption was like, "Wow, what an amazing thing you're doing for those children. You're really going to have your hands full!" Yes. They were right.

SIL and her husband are amazing, smart, kind, patient, and I really think they're doing a great job. But SIL kind of had a breakdown last night, and she shared that it's really, really hard, and sometimes she wonders if they can do it. They've had the kids for about a month, and the older two especially are really testing them. They've had a pretty rough background, so it's normal to expect that they would have some behavioral issues, but it's worse than my SIL expected. Sometimes the kids just flip out and completely lose their shitt. I have been there for one of these meltdowns, and it almost seems like the kids are demon possessed or something. That is bad to say, but they go from sweet, normal kids to shrieking, throwing things, saying really awful things, flailing, crying, etc., and it happens in an instant. SIL and H have tried behavior charts where you progress in colors and then there are rewards or consequences, but she hasn't really seen an improvement, and she is feeling discouraged and exhausted.

I feel like part of the issue is that the kids have no concept of discipline, consequences, or accountability, so they're having to build that from scratch. Plus they're in a new place, with people they don't really know who are suddenly mom and dad, new rules, baggage from what happened to them before, etc. Then again, I think behavior challenges and flip outs are somewhat normal, even for a child who has the very best parents and childhood.

Any parenting advice for my SIL or advice for me on how to help and encourage her? I can't babysit for her and H to get a break due to some legal things with the adoption, but maybe taking them some meals or going over to help?

Thanks for reading this far. I might DD this for privacy reasons, but I do really appreciate the advice. I only have a baby, so I'm counting on more experienced parents for advice. TIA!

Re: Behavior issues HELP

  • Therapy. For everyone.

    Your SIL is a saint and those poor kids sound like they've been through a lot.


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  • MH often deals with kids with severe behavior issues and when they have problems like the ones your SIL adopted, he typically recommends behavior therapy.  Her pediatrician should recommend a program if she hasn't already.  It definitely takes a lot of time to deal with those sorts of issues and it's completely understandable that she's overwhelmed.

    As for helping out--it sucks that you can't babysit.  Would it be possible to give your SIL a date night at home where you watch the kids while they go in the backyard for a picnic and get some well-needed one-on-one time?  That way you still have some backup if you need it, but they can get some breathing room. 

    Sorry that she's going through this.  Some of our friends are doing foster-to-adopt and, while we would love to babysit to help out, you actually need to be registered with the state to be an approved babysitter...and if you baby sit outside of the parent's house, your house needs to be inspected by the fire inspector to ensure that it's up to code.  Since our house was built in 1976 and has some funky architecture, it would never pass.

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  • Agree with therapy. Also sounds like the kids expect your sister and BIL to disappear and are testing them.

    Did they discuss the rules when the kids first got there? One thing they could do is create rules as a family. This will give the kids input and let them discuss why rules are important. Rules should be posted and consequences should be too. When the kids break the rules/melt down they need to reassure the kids "we love you no matter what, we aren't going anywhere, you still have to sit in your room for a while (or whatever the consequence is). They HAVE to be consistent. Even though its hard.  I think this article may be helpful too.

    It really sucks that you can't give them a break. Can you be there so your sister can go take a long shower or something-- it might refresh her a bit. 

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  • SpookoSpooko
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    Please XP this to the adoption board. I know Captain Serious in particular would probably have some insight. It's important to consider not just the adjustment period and the regular testing that comes with that, plus the ages of the kids, but that there's a whole host of issues that are inherent in adoption. If they do go to therapy (which I'd suggest) it's very important to find someone who's well-versed in adoption issues, and potentially RAD. Best of luck to them.

  • SpookoSpooko
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    I'd also like to know what you mean by "just" adopted them. The things you listed that they've tried already are quite a few, and usually you need to implement them for several weeks in order to see a difference. If they're skipping around too much and not being consistent in application, those things aren't going to help. It's also important to find out what their "currency" is. If they aren't interested in the prizes, it won't motivate them and it won't matter, anyways. 

    How much experience do they have with kids prior to this? It can be quite a jump to go from 0-3, as well as suddenly have elementary school kids without getting a chance to build up and learn from them while they're still little. If they haven't read them, 123 Magic, Love and Logic, and How to talk so your kids will listen and listen so your kids will talk, are all excellent general parenting books.

    BUT, I do believe there's a chance, more likely than not, that a lot of this is adoption/their specific background related and those things need to be addressed, besides just general parenting techniques. You alluded to a rough background. Know that it can take kids until they are 3 or 4 to start showing signs of prenatal drug exposure, and that age 6-7 is typically when ADHD stuff can start to be diagnosed. So make sure they're thorough in exploring what's going on. You can't fix it if you don't know what you're dealing with. 


  • SpookoSpooko
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    Also, IDK what state they're in, but if they've finalized the adoption, IDK why you wouldn't be able to babysit. In our state, they would be the official parents in the same way as if she had given birth and would have full say in any caregivers.

  • I work with children with behavior issues and one of the things the organization does is fostering/adoption services.  We have a lot of different services available for families after the adoption, but I'm not sure how it is for every agency, since the kids we deal with are already diagnosed.  Does your sister have someone she can contact there for a recommendation for a family therapist?  Or does the agency offer any post-adoption services?
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  • All of this is completely normal when adopting older children. One month, and for some reason almost always one month, is the "honeymoon period". After that the testing happens.

    There are a lot of good books about adopting an older child. "Parenting the Hurt Child" is probably the best. Therapy for SURE. Lots of respite time to take care of herself and her marriage. It will be such a test of her patience, but it is important that she and her husband really show the kids that they are in this for the long haul, that the kids are safe with them, and that they will never send them away. It will get easier and then have some cyclical tough periods again.

    As Spooko said, there are some folks on the Adoption board that have been through this. Definitely post there if you haven't.

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  • Behavior therapy can do wonders. Seriously. I had a kid in my PreK class 2 years ago that was jusy like what you described. His parents had gone through a rough divorce and his mom was in and out. We convinced his dad to give play therapy a shot and he responded really, really well once he had that outlet for his emotions. He was like a different kid. Tell your SIL to get a recommendatio fro the pedi ASAP.

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  • MaebbMaebb
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    Thanks for all of the advice so far. I will pass along the info. They have had the children for one month, but the adoption will not be final until January. There are only a set number of people who could apply and be approved to babysit until it is final.

    The date night in the backyard is a great idea. It is a state adoption from a different state, so I don't know if an agency is involved, but I will have her look into family and behavioral therapy and the books for sure if she hasn't already. Fred, that's good info about the honeymoon period, thanks. It will comfort her to know that what she is going through is normal.
  • Advise her to hop on the adoption board herself. I lurk over there because those ladies are wise!


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