The following column was written by Maria Kroupina, PhD, who specializes in research and clinical care for young children with a history of early adversity and toxic stress, including those with histories of institutional care.
Originally posted M Health Blog University of Minnesota
Children who have experienced early social or emotional adversity, including institutionalization or numerous family transitions, are at risk for attachment challenges.
Attachement relationships are special bonds that infants develop with thier parent or primary cargiver(s), often in the first year of life. These relationships serve many purposes in a child's development, and can help a child become more resilient against long-term mental health issues.
Your adopted child may not have received sensitive care during their first few years of life. As a result of this early adversity, adopted children may not have learned how to signal their needs or how to ask for help. This can lead to challenges expressing or regulating emotions. In some cases, children may not turn to a parent for help.
Initially, a child may demonstrate the following behaviors:
- Have difficulty sleeping
- Have unexpected tantrums or strong emotional responses
- Fail to seek comfort from caregivers, or signal distress when in pain
- Rely on self-soothing behaviors such as thumb-sucking, rocking, hitting his or her own head or scratching
It is easy for a parent to misinterpert these unclear signals. Parents may even believe these behaviors mean that their adopted child does not need their support of comfort. Developming a secure attachment to a primary caregiver is critical for helping children to know how and when to signal distress for self-regulating behavior and emotions and for learning how to ask for help and comfort. For those reasons, it may be beneficial to bring your child to visit a mental health provider if he or she is exhibiting these or other challenging behaviors.
During your mental health visit at University of Minnesota Health Adoption Medicine Clinic, we will assess your child's attachment behaviors and the trajectory of his or her relationship with you. In partnerships with you, we will work to understand your child's needs and develop strategies to help you foster the sensitve, nurturing care he or she needs.
It is important to know that the development of attention skills, impulse control, and some specific cognitive functions can also be at risk as a consequence of early adversity. Early intervention is the most effective way to help these children reach their full potential. It is another reason you may want to consider scheduling this appointment.
Additionally, we will evaluate your child's executive functioning and cognitive development during your visit to our clinic. We will help you to learn how you can promote your child's brain development; we can also help build age-appropriate attentions and cognitive skills to prepare your child for entry into the school system.
Early intervention has a great success rate for helping children and parents form an attachment and to learn how to better identify emotional states, and communicate needs to prevent long-term mental health issues.
To make an appointment with Dr. Kroupina call 612-365-8005
Learn more about our services at the Adoption Medicine Clinic
Serving the unique medical and developmental needs of children living without consistent parental care and children who join their family though adoption.