Helping Adopted Kids Adjust

Understanding the unique needs of children adopted after infancy.
little girl holding a toy

Children adopted after infancy from overseas or from foster care have unique needs that parents may not recognize, according to Karyn Purvis, PhD, director of Texas Christian University's Institute of Child Development, in Fort Worth, and author of the new book The Connected Child. To help these older babies and toddlers thrive, she advises parents to follow these ground rules.

  • Create a soothing space. Bright colors and cheerful patterns can overwhelm children who were raised in a sterile environment and often have sensory-processing difficulties. Decorate your child's room with subdued patterns and colors, and keep only a few toys out at one time.
  • Let her "hoard" food. Children who have lived in poverty can have a deeply embedded fear that starvation is just around the corner. Let your child keep healthy snacks in her room, in case she wakes up hungry and frightened.
  • Hold him. "To have healthy neural connections in his brain awakened, your child needs to feel your touch and see your face," says Dr. Purvis. Whenever you can, hold him or use a baby carrier instead of a bouncy seat or another freestanding child seat.
  • Use "time-in" instead of "time-out." When your child gets a little older, rather than sending her to a quiet "time-out" spot when she misbehaves, stay nearby so you can talk as soon as she's ready, and reassure her that you love her. "Isolating her could reinforce her belief that she's all alone against the world," says Dr. Purvis.

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the October 2007 issue of Parents magazine.

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