Making Friends and Creating Healthy Social Ties for Adopted Children

Making Friends and Creating Healthy Social Ties for Adopted Children

Insights For Parents and Caregivers

We want the best for our children, no matter what. And when we see them struggle to make playmates and friends in school or the neighborhood, it makes us worry.

Establishing healthy friendships is highly correlated to positive developmental outcomes for a child. If you notice your child getting anxious approaching or being approached by other children, know this is a common struggle among all children, not just the fostered and/or adopted children.

Regardless, we shouldn’t agonize over them about our observations on their social skills, pressure them to do about it, or even assume they’ll be able to figure things out on their right away. It should be handled properly. And there are plenty of ways how you can extend your help to your child.

In this article, we discuss the reasons behind the challenge of making friends among fostered and adopted children, the need for close communication between parents and social workers, and some fitting advice for parents and caretakers on how to be supportive of a child’s social communication development.

Reasons Fostered and Adopted Children Have Difficulty Making Friends

Fostered and adopted children often face unique and more complex challenges in forming and maintaining friendships, as compared to non-adopted/fostered ones. These children may have experienced trauma, lack role models around them to learn social skills from, have pre-existing medical conditions that hinder them from doing it, or for other reasons. Whatever it is, we must learn more about the child’s background and not neglect the matter that unfolds before us as a parent or a caretaker. Here are some of the usual explanations for why adopted children are having a difficult for them to build connections with their peers.

  •         Maladaptive behaviors
  • Children in foster care show a higher risk of developing mental disorders and show developmental delays when they experience maltreatment. This then badly affects how they take social cues and start a conversation with other children. In addition, if they’re used to anger, mistrust, and fear, children are insecurely attached and behave aggressively towards other peers.
  •         Poor early social attachments   A caregiver’s relationship with the child may become the template for the future relationship of the child. A child can easily learn reciprocity in social interactions (that he can use in building friendships and other relationships) from a kind and sensitive caregiver. In the same way, a parent-child relationship quality dictates their expectations on how the quality of their friendships goes.
  •         Multiple Out-of-Home Placements  More than the physical aspect of the placement move, the psychological shift associated with it should also be contemplated. Bouncing from foster home to foster home can be detrimental to their idea of building healthy relationships. Children who’ve experienced multiple re-homing have been let down time and time again. The notion of having a friendship for the long haul seems foreign to them. As a result, the initiative on putting in the effort to be social is something they’d shy away from.

Collaborative Relationship Between Adoptive Parents, Social Workers, and Foster Parents

Helping your child navigate friendship problems involves getting to know the foster parents and/or the social workers. Everything starts with acknowledgment and knowing the root cause.

If you’re a parent  You can’t  solve this problem alone just by your mere observations of how the child interacts. Why not contact the social workers involved? Just like in a football team, or a dance choreography, everything will work as smoothly as you desire if you’re on the same page about the information and the strategies.

For the caregivers We must communicate your care for the child's future well-being. Informtation that can help the prospective adoptive parent give the best life possible to the child is not just an appreciated effort but a necessity.

Initially—in placing the child with a foster family, social workers train and lay out what’s expected of them to do. During foster care, they look for and choose the right home for the child. When the child is finally matched with a prospective adoptive parent, then we count on the social workers to relay what the child will need in the next chapters of his life. Whether it be emotional, behavioral, or medical support.

An adoptive parent must be patient. A social worker is your key to knowing more about the difficulties you are encountering regarding learning skills and behaviors.                                                                                

Important Aspects of Social and Emotional Development for Young Children

The social and emotional development of an adopted child starts with its very first relationship. Usually, it’s with the birth mother while it’s an infant. The first gaze, the first touch with the primary caregiver (i.e., the birth mother) instantly forms an attachment.

Basic Needs and Overall Support. When basic needs are met, there’s a sense of security and trust felt by the infant. A child then gets used to how his/her primary caregiver meets his/her needs. And even how he/she receives guidance, reassurance, and support as he/she growsold. The child becomes attuned to the behavior of his/her nurturer.

Self-identity and Self-Esteem     Children emulate what they see from their caregivers, whether it be birth parents and/or foster parents. What they see in the household is a behavior deemed normal and just how the way things go. If a failure is met with appreciation, encouragement, and support, the same way an achievement does, then they develop high self-esteem. They learn, don’t blame anyone, and stay confident about trying again after a mishap. They stay humble, focused, and sensitive to others with every milestone they celebrate.

Moral  What dictates what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable when making friendships and dealing with other social interactions? Just like what is said above, feedback to the children plays an important role—especially when they’re just building the foundation of their values and principles.

Empathy Humans are social beings. And as we’ve observed, children are so natural about it. When you see your child struggling with developing empathy for the feelings of others, it’s on us as the caregiver to teach them gradually and appropriately about it.

What Can I Do?

All of the points stated above are important to keep in mind and practice as you raise your child. As the child's caregiver, it's key that you understand the "why" behind the struggles to interact socially. Providing constant love, support, guidance, and understanding will help grow into a confident individual. Remember, seeking support from professionals (social workers, guidance counselors, other foster parents, etc) can provide a wealth of knowledge and community for you and the child. 

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