You Now Have a New Job: Educator.
One of your primary duties will be helping those who interact with the child, especially teachers, understand the 'whys' of your child's behavior. I had a livid teacher call me to relate that the children had all been in line to go to the bathroom. A child cut in line in front of Jaclyn and she exploded. The teacher intervened and instructed Jaclyn to 'let it go'. Assuming compliance, she was furious when Jaclyn neatly checked the other child into the sink as soon as they got out of the teacher's eyesight. Understanding that Jaclyn's former life experience involved living in an orphanage with 380 children that lined up daily for virtually everything and that being in the back of that line often meant no lunch if they ran out of food, or wearing, the left-over shoes that were two sizes too small, helped the teacher understand that 'place in line' was not a trivial matter for this child.
Strategies that might help here include:
Seek First to Understand. Unfortunately, most older adoptees are not as disclosing about their past lives as Jaclyn was. So read all you can on institutional behavior and think about cause and effect responses. For example, I could hear Jaclyn on the playground when I was two football fields away. But she had also clamored for adult attention with hundreds of others so her piercing voice was simply a way to be heard. Once you 'get it', it somehow becomes easier to tolerate.
Help the Child Understand. Use positive reinforcement to encourage them to abandon old behaviors. But remember, too, that this is also a process and feeling safe is a prerequisite to letting go of what worked in the past.
Help Others Understand. Speak candidly with those who will be an on-going part of your child's life. Then, ask for them to be your partner in encouraging new behaviors.
The materials for this course have been reprinted with permission from the book Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox Building Connections, edited by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae Copyright © 2006 EMK Press, all rights reserved. The complete 520 page book covering all aspects of becoming and being an adoptive family is available at Amazon.com.