International Adoption Articles
This issue of the Newsletter is
entirely devoted to reflections on 2 subjects we touched upon separately:
trauma and the native language of internationally adopted children.
They often intersect in a way that is unpredictable and even bewildering
for the adoptive parents.
Language as trauma
As Dr. Gindis wrote in his
Pros and cons of keeping the native language of
the adopted child, the
adoptive parents need to understand that native language can be a powerful
trigger of many traumatic memories and new fears for a child, no matter
how unfounded they are. Based on the accumulated material: parent's
messages to Dr. Gindis and postings on the Internet, we offer you a
collection of postings, where the real experience of real adoptive parents
is presented. These messages were accumulated over several years, so
it's not possible already to give the credit to those who provided these
subtle and intelligent observations of their children's behavior. The
real names mentioned in the messages are changed, but the stories continue
to give you a powerful insight into what can be expected with your own
child and how to be open-minded and sensitive.
as trauma trigger: a collection of messages from adoptive parents
"Are there any exceptions to
these cases?" you may ask. Certainly there are quite a few: healthy
children, who do not have problems with the English language learning,
show no sighs of trauma and have practical use, in the family and outside,
for their native language may succeed in keeping this language, typically
a conversational aspect of it
environment that facilitates bilingualism in children).
In every successful case we encountered so far,
at least one of the parents was fluent in this language. It's possible
that your children may try to go back to their roots later; they may
even ask for courses and additional training in the first language,
but these cases are still an exception, not a rule.
What can be done to help children
to avoid language-based triggers of their trauma? Here is an advice
from some of you:
- My kids are from Kazakhstan and
they were told the caregivers would come in the middle of the night
to get them if they weren't good until they were completely grown
up. So they are never safe. No amount of reasoning or reassurance
from us has allowed them to completely let go of this fear. I've got
their therapist working on it now to help them and us. So imagine
a younger child who is viscerally scared and has no way to even explain
that fear to herself, much less put it into words for the parents.
The recommendations to keep a child close to home and to protect them
from the outside world in order to facilitate attachment and a sense
of belonging and restore emotional health are really valid.
- We had tried to have a friend,
who was from Russia, speak to the children several times in the early
weeks home to find out if they had any fears or concerns. But, hearing
the language traumatized them further. They were sure she was there
to take them back! So, we began to use the telephone for times when
we could not communicate. It wasn't needed often, but was a blessing
when we did need it. Talking to her on the telephone instead of in
person seemed less frightening for them. Though she is a very kind
and loving person, they were still very fearful when they were with
her in person.
- The other thing that helped us
greatly was a pocket translator and online translators. Since our
son could read and write, as long as we used simple words, we were
able to communicate fairly well using that method when needed.