7.20.2011

Institutionalized children

My friend NATASHA wrote a blog post that spoke volumes to some of the bizarre challenges she has experienced as she raises an institutionalized child. We have some of the same issues so I thought you might gain some insight by sharing it with you:


1. Children from institutions can find it difficult to feel hot or cold! If no one is there in your younger years to tell you what the feelings are or telling you move out of the sun because you’re hot, or to wrap up warm when you’re colder, how would you know? Bizarre, but we struggle with this one a lot! Lutaaya is NEVER cold! Or so she seems to think!
2. Children from institutions struggle with emotions. Again linked to the one above. Our emotions/feelings are learned. If no one explains them or distinguishes between them, you get confused and they get muddled together. So when you feel excited it may make you misbehave, because you simply cannot pop a lid on that emotion and it becomes too much to deal with.
3. Children from institutions find it difficult to make decisions. In any setting and for any decision. These children have never had an option to choose anything. They have lost control of their life at a very young age and most would have had every decision made for them in an institution. Believe me, this one takes time and patience, and the ability to limit decisions in every day life.
4. Children who have been in an institution for a long time learn the art of manipulation. This sounds harsh but is so true. They go to the people who will give them what they’re looking for, regardless of who that person is. They are good at bluffing. If I act childish you’ll treat me younger. If I smile and act sweet, you may give me a gift. Fight or flight I guess?
5. Children from institutions don’t believe in themselves and their abilities. They have never received praise, they can’t cope with their emotions. So if they get praised for a piece of work they are very likely to simply sit and destroy it. It can be a tricky thing not to then give them the reaction they want, as it’s only the negative feedback they are used too.

All in all, children from institutions see the world in a very different way. And why wouldn’t they? Where they’ve been is not nice, it’s not fun and it’s not a home! I’ve listed only 5 points but there are many more! Every day is a learning experience when you see it through your child’s eyes. Every day we learn new ways to deal with the hundreds of things written about in adoption books, and those that we experience in our family but we live in hope. Things are changing and a previous institutionalised child will thrive in a family. They will start to overcome the hurdles they face. They will, in time, adapt and realise that this is different to what they know and that it is better.

The moral of the story has to be:

Let’s get children out from institutions and into families!!!!

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