Is It Toddlerhood or Adoption?

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with Rita Taddonio, CSW
Director of SPARK (Child Development program) at Spence-Chapin

Opening Remarks: Toddler Development

The toddler years are often stormy with tantrums, control battles, and swings from acting like a needy baby to being a rejecting tyrant. For both parent and child, it is a confusing and frustrating time. The reason for all this tumult is that the major emotional task of the toddler is to reconcile movement towards self-reliance and competence with the desire for parental love and protection. This is often complicated by the fact that the toddler's physical development and skills may not be advanced enough to enable him/her to accomplish his/her goals.

In an adoptive family there is an additional layer of complexity to the toddler years. Parents, having read articles about attachment may wonder if their child's behavior is a manifestation of attachment disorder, or worry that if they respond the wrong way to their child's behavior they will create problems.

The truth is toddler behavior is most often just that. If parents learn how to successfully navigate between allowing their child to test out their independence and providing firm guidance things should turn out just fine.

If you have adopted a toddler your child may go through some grieving. Toddlers are old enough to perceive changes in their environment, the loss of a caretaker, cribmate, etc. Adjustment reactions may occur immediately but sometimes appear later, when they are more comfortable and feeling secure with you. Some behaviors, which were survival behaviors in the preadoptive environment, may not be suited to family life, and your child will need help learning how to be part of your family.

As an adoptive parent, the following are important to remember in your role:

  1. Consider where your child has come from and be conscious of how history and experience may effect behavior.
  2. Realize that adoption shouldn't necessarily affect how you parent, but will probably make you worry a little more and wonder what is behind your child's behavior.
  3. Provide a secure environment and consistent daily routine where a child with a sense of independence can flourish.
  4. Balance your child's opportunities to make choices with clear limits.

Now that I'm done lecturing, let's open it up to your questions.

© 2003, Rita Taddonio, CSW

Page 1: Opening Remarks
• Page 2: What's "Normal"?
• Page 3: Hitting When Frustrated
• Page 4: Early Intervention
• Page 5: Language Skills

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