Meeting Your Preschooler's Unique Challenges
Your child may have lost several primary caregivers and need the security of full-time parenting, especially if he's been through a failed adoption or multiple foster care placements. In such cases, many adoption professionals recommend that you or your partner put career plans on hold and be a full-time parent for at least a year. If you're single or can't take time away from your career, you'll need extra support. You must understand the feelings and perspective of your child that exist under negative behaviors, and be able to be loving and nurturing as you become the safe, capable adult for a child who is not able to trust.
Don't be fooled by a child who displays inappropriately mature behavior, such as putting himself to bed without your help or making his own food. Many children, especially those from crowded orphanages or deficient homes, have never had anyone to do those things for them. They may also not demand your attention during the day and wander off to entertain themselves, thereby avoiding interactions with you.
Don't allow your child to spend too much time alone without you or your support person's involvement during the first months of placement. Many adoption professionals estimate that you will have to actively work on promoting attachment for at least a year for every year of the child's age before he came to you. It is only through spending time with you that your child will be able to adjust to the adoption.
If you can't coax your child into interactions and he continually rejects your gentle offers of affection, don't wait until you are ready to give up. Consult with a therapist who is experienced and trained in attachment issues.
Another indication of the need for professional intervention is angry outbursts that are out of proportion to the precipitating event. For example, you ask your child to pick up scattered toys and he launches into a screeching fit, complete with kicking and fist pounding. Other indications include cruelty to animals, setting fires, stealing, and hoarding food after you've provided nonperishable items for him to keep.
Take heart in the knowledge that medical tools exist today that didn't only a few years ago. Magnetic resonating instruments (MRI), sonograms, and other noninvasive procedures have revolutionized brain research. If necessary, doctors can watch your child's brain in action and pinpoint the behavioral programs, medicines, and special diets that will foster regrowth of neurons and strengthen areas of weakness in his brain. This can lead to better behavioral self-control and mood stability.
Your child may be disobedient, insist on being left alone, or aggressive toward others. Because your child is a preschooler, you can control his environment. Be careful about putting him into situations where he's liable to act out. For his first few months in your home, stay away from crowds or shopping malls. Too many people and too much stimulation will overload his ability to cope (note that overstimulation can be a problem for all children, adopted or not, of all ages).
Since you can't protect him forever, gradually introduce social situations that allow him to practice skills he'll need to enter and succeed in school.