An adoption book for everyone

Book review: Raising Adopted Children by Lois Ruskai Melina

Raising Adopted Children aims to be everything to all adoptive parents. It covers every imaginable adoption scenario. I appreciated that as a book about adoption in general, it gave equal treatment to older child adoption. I’ve read several books that focus mainly, or solely, on infant adoption.

There were a few chapters in this book that were particularly helpful to me. Here are the chapter titles, subheads, and quotes.

Chapter 3: Bonding and Attachment

Attachment to an Older Child

“We need to remember that a school-age adoptee can regress physically, emotionally, and morally. We don’t expect a toddler to keep her pants dry, to go to bed without a fuss, or to know that it is wrong to take objects from her mother’s dresser drawer. We expect a seven-year-old to know these things. But the recently placed seven-year-old may behave like the toddle because that’s where she is in relation to the family – she’s not an infant in age, but she’s an infant in the family.”

Chapter 11: Behavior Problems

Dealing with Serious Problems

“Much of the behavior that parents find most difficult to deal with can be categorized as:

– Lack of conscience: an inability to tell right from wrong, or to feel remorse or regret when he does something wrong. Often a lack of conscience is the result of the child’s failure to make attachments. The child who doesn’t care about her parents is not motivated to behave in a way that will please them. Some children fail to develop a sense of conscience because values have never been clearly spelled out, or because they have lived in many places with conflicting values.

– Inability to differentiate and express feelings: the child who has experienced early trauma may not know any other feelings besides pain and lack of pain. He may not be motivated to improve his behavior because as long as he isn’t in pain, he is experiencing the most ‘happiness’ he has come to expect in life. Or a child may have been discouraged from expressing his emotions and so does not know how to express his feelings of anger, fear, grief, or love.

– Failure to attach: failure to develop reciprocal feelings of love and caring with parents and siblings. Lack of caring for other family members is related to a lack of conscience and inability to express feelings.”

Effect on the Family

“Parents frequently feel isolated, like they are the only parents having such serious problems … Parents need to separate their child’s behavior from themselves, not allowing themselves to feel judged for the child’s actions.”


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