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April 29, 2017 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Adopted son is a nightmare

Question:

My situation is a little unusual. I adopted my oldest son who is 11. I have raised him since he just turned three. He is my husband's biological son from his first marriage. Their marriage was a bad situation and when the son was 18 months old my husband left her and got full custody. One of the reasons he left her was she was neglecting the son. Without giving all the details, he basically raised him himself the first 18 months. Then going through a divorce at 18 months, he had a whole new life as my husband moved to another state.

By the time I got this boy he was very messed up. He has been lying and stealing since the age of 4. At age three he was very high strung and hard to handle. No matter what I tried I could not get close to this boy - through hugs, talking, etc. Neither has my husband been able to, it's not just me. The son is not close to anyone. To make a long story somewhat short, it has been hell raising him and we still have seven years to go. I don't want you to get the wrong impression by this short email, we do treat him right, and really go out of our way for him. I am partly venting here.

We have taken him to several counselors, however, that is hopeless and we will not go through counseling again with him. At one point our medical doctor diagnosed ADD. He was put on Ritalin, which did help to a point. Through my own research and from the last counselor we saw last year, I truly believe he has that attachment disorder. I am not sure if you are aware of the kinds of behavior that come with that, but it really is horrible living with someone like that.

They are impulsive, manipulative, sneaky, lying, stealing, argumentative all the time, pushy, and very self centered. I am sure the list could go on. This child does have some good qualities, however, as a parent of this kind of child we cannot let our guard down. He will never be normal and we can never parent as if he were a normal child. I really just pray we can make it through the next seven years without any big incidences. I feel guilty when he turns 18 because he will be out in society. My husband and I have already agreed that he will not get his drivers license until the age of 18. He just cannot be trusted.

I cannot tell you the efforts we have put into this child, through talks, actions, everything we know how and he just doesn't get it. He is hopeless. I just hope we make it through the next seven years safely! He does scare me sometimes. He gets so mad!! My husband feels the same way I do. That has been a saving grace that we are together on this issue. In fact he is grateful for me because I do handle the son very well. My husband does not have as much patience or know-how when raising kids much less a problem child. I do all the parental things I know a parent should do. I go to his baseball games, I try to have a conversation with him, I make sure his needs are met, I buy him special gifts now and then, I even tell him I love him several times a day (although it isn't true).

I do care for him and would be sad for a short time if something were to happen to him, but in all honesty, it would really be a relief. He gets good grades in school, however, his behavior has been a problem since preschool. Every year he gets written up several times. He also gets several calls home from the teacher. I believe this is all because of the attachment disorder. He does not know how to relate to people. He never has and probably never will. I have heard of an attachment center in Colorado, however, we cannot manage that. My husband has a full time job that would not allow time off for something that long, plus we now have another son who is 16 months old (our biological son together). That is just not feasible for us. Plus what I have heard it entails, I am not willing to do (like cuddling him and swaddling him like a baby). Well, enough of that I guess. He goes in cycles and now is a bad cycle in case you couldn't tell.

While I am writing, maybe you can give me your opinion on this matter as well. My husband and I agreed we would have two children plus the oldest son making three. We now have two sons and our agreement was we would have one more baby. I have always wanted a daughter so bad. And now that I have the 16 month-old I don't want to agree on having just one more. I have always wanted to be a mother and I love it! Anyway, we have been going back and forth now for 5 months on two issues. One is whether or not to adopt our next baby. And the other issue is whether or not to have two more babies. I know you cannot answer these questions for us, but any advice, comments, help, would be appreciated. We are considering an international adoption for a healthy infant girl. We are not sure about this mostly because of our oldest son. We do not want another problem child. We are so scared the baby would not attach, or bond with us. We are also worried that when she got older (pre-teen and older) she would rebel against the family because she would be adopted and of another race.

I know a person cannot predict something like that. I have found two programs for international adoption. One is through Holt's Korean program. The babies are in foster care where they receive excellent care. They arrive to the U.S. between 4 and 6 months old. The other program is from Dillon International's India program. The babies are in an orphanage, but from what I hear they are well taken care of and loved. They say a pediatrician visits daily. The babies arrive to the U.S. between 5 and 7 months old. I feel drawn more to India because I feel like they have more of a need then Korea. I know any baby born without parents is in need of a family, however, India is a poorer country and the babies are in an orphanage rather then foster care. Also there are more Korean adoptions then Indian, making it harder for the Indian babies to get homes.

Our motivation for wanting to adopt is that we would like to have a daughter and my husband only wants one more child. We (I should say I) feel called to help an orphan. I had my fun experiencing pregnancy and childbirth, etc. I just want another baby. Why make another one when I can love someone else's as my own. I also had a bad pregnancy and c-section birth and I really don't want to be pregnant again. My husband would rather not adopt because it scares him more then it does me. It scares him that the child will be like our eldest. We have been trying to conceive since October without any luck. Since January my husband has agreed to adopt from Holt's Korean program if we wait to start the process until January of 2000 when we may be able to afford it more easily. However, we have gone back and forth on this issue. At this point, we are not going to try to conceive, or adopt for three months. We will then discuss the issue again and see what we want to do.

Even with the oldest son being so difficult, I refuse to let him ruin my life. I want to raise some normal, healthy, happy children. It does help me to formulate my own ideas, by hearing what other people have to say. I truly look forward to your reply to this email. Thank you!

Sally

Answer:

Dear Sally,

Thank you for your letter. You strike me as someone who is grappling with many involved issues. I will try to separate them and offer my suggestions and input one at a time.

First of all, regarding your son, I have much to say. From what you describe, your son has been reacting to many circumstances that were out of his control. He was abandoned by his neglectful biological mother at 18 months old. Even though he may not consciously remember that, I believe that he remembers it at a cellular level. At age three you entered his life and became "the other mother". No matter what you do to love him or shower him with your good intentions, it will never be enough for him. This is not to say that it is your fault that he cannot or will not bond with you. This is simply a common trait of someone who has been abandoned. I will not venture to diagnose your son with attachment disorder, but I can say with confidence that he is exhibiting all the signs of it. On the one hand, you state that he is not close to anyone, but on the other hand I see a young boy who is desperately crying out for love and attention. Unfortunately, all he is getting is your negative attention. The lying, stealing, and sneaking around is just his way of letting you know that he is there, but at the same time, he wants you to leave him alone. One thing you need to remember is that he is a hurt and lost soul. He will find his way, but it will take time. It will take patience, love, and understanding on your part. And just when you think that you can't be patient any longer, you need to practice even more patience.

In regards to the counseling, you said that you have taken your son to several counselors and your conclusion from that experience is that the situation is hopeless. I disagree. No situation is ever hopeless. There is always hope. Maybe you haven't found the right counselor that can truly break through the walls that your son has successfully built up over the years. If he won't bond with you, what makes you think that he will bond with a complete stranger. Counseling, like any other relationship, takes time to develop. Perhaps you could consider family counseling. Adoption is a family issue. I really don't like hearing you say that "he will never be normal". He is far from abnormal. He is in pain, and when people are in pain, they behave abnormally. On the one hand, you say that you are doing all the things that a loving parent should do. I agree. Keep it up. Baseball games, conversations, and gifts are all well and good. But to tell your son that you love him when it isn't true is a tragedy. Your son knows that you don't love him. It also saddened me when you said that you "would be sad for a short time if something were to happen to him". Even though you don't say these exact words to him, I believe that he knows your true feelings.

Your decision on whether or not to adopt is ultimately up to you. My concern is that if you are having so much trouble with the son that you already adopted, why would you want to take the chance on somebody else's child? All children need to be loved equally and wholly, whether they are your natural born children or not. I cannot tell you whether or not another adopted child will bond with you. Many adoptees are unable to bond with any caregiver that is not their biological parents. On the other hand, you may adopt a child that is the exact opposite of your son, or somewhere in the middle. Anything can happen, but you must treat any and all type of adopted children with the same love and respect that you would grant your own child. If you are considering an international adoption, be sure to honor that child's culture. Not only will these children be raised in a different home, but they will also be raised in a different country.

You stated that you refuse to let your son ruin your life. I agree. One should not let anybody ruin their life. But in the meantime, don't give up on counseling, get involved in adoptive family support groups, and most importantly, be truthful about your feelings to him.

Good Luck

Kasey Hamner

This question was answered by Kasey Hamner. Kasey Hamner has a Bachelor of Art degree in Psychology, a Masters of Science degree in Counseling, a Pupil Personnel Services Credential authorizing her services as a School Psychologist, and is a Licensed Educational Psychologist. She specializes in adoption related issues including search and reunion, abandonment, self-esteem, substance abuse, depression, and relationship difficulties. Also amongst her specialties are children's issues including adoption, abandonment, ADD, special education and so on. Her approach is eclectic and is adapted to suit the individual's needs.

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