During this time, it is now more important than ever to support a child's mental health and well-being. Adopted children and teenagers often have additional needs due to their life experiences. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is an effective way to support children, it can also be help adoptive parents cope better during challenging circumstances.
What is adoption?
Adoption is the legal process by which a child or a group of siblings who cannot be brought up within their birth family become full, permanent, and legal members of their new family. Adopters become the child's legal parents with the same rights and responsibilities as if the child was born to them.
Most adopted children have suffered significant abuse, violence or neglect in their birth families and most have spent time in foster care.
Adoption gives children a second chance of stability, permanence, and the love and nurture that all children need. The outcomes for adopted children are better than for those who stay in care. However, adoption is not a simple solution to a complex situation. The trauma suffered in early childhood is carried with children into their adoptive families. Many of the challenges encountered by families stem from their children’s early life experiences. Adopted children often have difficulties in trusting adults and forming healthy relationships within their new families. Those families need consistent, specialist support to help them give their adopted children the best possible chance of a brighter future.
Mental Health and Attachment Issues
Research has found that adopted children are at risk for suffering from mental health disorders. Twelve to 14 percent of adopted children in the United States between the ages of 8 and 18 are diagnosed with a mental health disorder each year, and adopted children are almost twice as likely as children brought up with their biological parents to suffer from mood disorders like anxiety, depression, and behavioural issues.
Most adopted children in the UK are taken into care because of maltreatment by their birth parents. They are more likely to have experienced adversity at an early stage of life than the general population.
Previous research found children who are older at the time of their adoption are more likely to experience psychological and behaviour problems. Children over four are more troubled than children who are younger when they are adopted.
NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH RESEARCH (2020)
Several factors contribute to an adopted child’s risk of suffering from a mood or behavioural disorder, like:
- Age of adoption
- Where the child was adopted from
- Conditions of the foster home and family
- Whether the child has contact with his or her biological family members
- History of mental illness in biological family
These contributing factors directly affect the adopted child’s ability to attach and bond with his or her adopted parents. Issues with attachment are common, and are often a major contributing factor to the onset of mental health issues. For example, many adopted children suffer from reactive attachment disorder (RAD), which is a disorder in which a child is uncomfortable with and avoids being comforted by caretakers. Adopted children develop RAD as a result of not getting enough nurturing, comforting and consistent care prior to adoption.
Annual Research Review: Attachment disorders in early childhood – clinical presentation, causes, correlates, and treatment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2014).
Adopted children can suffer from:
- General feelings of grief, loss, and rejection
- Lack of trust
- Attachment difficulties
- Sense of shame and low self-esteem
- Problems concentrating
- Night terrors
- Anger issues
- High level of anxiety
- School issues
- Strong desire to be in control
- Inability to regulate their emotions
- Identity issues
- Suicidal idealisations and self-harm
RAD and related struggles can have a major impact on an adopted child as he or she reaches young adulthood. Young adulthood is a critical time for discovering one’s identity, purpose, passions, and place in the world. As the adopted child grows, he or she begins to understand more about the world. Such questions cause stress, anxiety, and sometimes anger and depression. There may be resentment toward adopted or biological parents, or a poor sense of confidence and low self-esteem, which are triggered by the confusion behind these unanswered questions.
Hypnotherapy is a helpful way to help young people to overcome their problems. SFH is an effective way to reconnect and reach out to children who are experiencing difficulties. Unlike other talking therapies we do not focus on the issue, instead we give children the tools to be able to move forward so they can achieve whatever they want to achieve. This can be particularly helpful for adopted children, that may not feel ready or able to talk about their past or presenting issue.
Hypnosis creates a state of relaxation which enables us to access the subconscious mind. Using stories, visualisations and metaphors as part of this process. It can be explained to a child that they will be having a relaxed and quiet time in which they use their imaginations to resolve their problems. Whilst treating a childhood problem, we can introduce other positive affirmations to the child. For example, being more relaxed, having more energy, feeling confident, feeling happy, liking themselves better, remembering things more easily or reading faster. Children are very suggestible and will respond well to these types of therapy. It is important that the child is keen to change the problem behaviour or issue themselves.
Often a child’s issue can trigger a parent and bring up emotional issues for them such as, unresolved feelings of loss, stress, anxiety and problems with sleep. SFH can also be an effective way to help adoptive parents to learn how to cope better during stressful situations. This can better equip them in supporting their child, which in turn can promote positive relationships.
I am a qualified Solution Focused Hypnotherapist based in Exeter, Devon. I am also an Adoption Social Worker, within Adoption South West Adoption Agency. I have over 15 years’ experience of working with children and young people and I have specialist knowledge of hypnotherapy with children.