What is one thing that all adopted children have in common?

There are millions of different stories, millions of different challenges but what is one thing that they all have in common?

At some point in their life, there was a sudden and, for them, unexpected change in who was “in control” of their lives.

And for many of the adopted children, there was a time in life where they felt that no one was in control and it scared them.

It scared them deep. Deep down to the pit of their stomachs.

In most cases, it scarred their brains and caused physiological changes to the way their brains process information and emotions.

The lack of safety, lack of perceived safety, lack of feeling like someone is “adulting” and is in charge can continue to cause problems for them for a long time to come. How so?

I run into with my own kids but also with other people I talk to where their kids (or my own) are having behavioral issues and it’s not really what it seems.

What it seems is – “Teenager X has turned in to a bad attitude cocky little 8th grader.”

What it really is – “Teenager X is terrified about going to a new school and going to high school and is showing their fear and lack of control by having a bad attitude and mouthing off.”

What it seems is – “Mr. 10 year old refuses to listen to anything his mom tells him to do – even though he used to be a well behaved (relatively so) kid.”

What it really is – “Mr. 10 year old is used to going to school and listening to the teachers. Now he’s home with a “baby sitter” – and that baby sitter is very timid, not very imaginative and lets him do whatever he wants.” That “freedom” is scary and makes him feel like no one is in control.

What it seems is – “Miss 12 year old can’t handle riding the school bus – she’s always causing problems and mouthing off to the bus driver, bossing the other girls and the younger kids around and getting in trouble.”

What it really is – “Miss 12 year old can’t handle riding the school bus – because it’s an hour of her day where she feels like no one is in control and the insecurity of it causes her to make bad choices.”

It’s not a matter of actual safety, it’s a matter of what I call “perceived safety.” They don’t feel safe.

If your child suddenly changes behavior or suddenly escalates what they were doing (and I’m not talking major danger scenarios), look at what has been going on in life lately. Has something happened that threatened their feeling of safety? Has something changed in terms of daily structure in life? Have you relaxed your parenting style and given them too much control over what they are doing when and how?

Control and Perceived Safety. A lack of feeling like someone (parent, Grandparent, teacher, child care provider) is in control can lead to feelings of a lack of perceived safety. They might be able to acknowledge that they know in their head they are safe, but in their hearts, they can still feel the lack of safety.

Increase the control, increase the structure and you will probably see some improvement in the issues.

Because you will see your child feeling safer.

It doesn’t work with everything, it’s not a major problem solver but it can be a significant step in the right direction.

Try it – you might like it.

Tom