Saturday, March 23, 2013

What are "post orphanage behaviors"?

My (Jean- not an expert but has some experience) definition is that orphanage behaviors are- the behaviors that the child has used to survive in an orphanage setting. 

They are not necessarily bad behaviors- in fact they have actually helped the child cope with life in orphanage conditions. However, the orphanage behaviors are not appropriate for family life and new behaviors need to be learned.

And the Mommy side of me defines it as - behaviors that a child exhibits before they have been taught new coping skills, manners(interactive appropriateness) and thoughtfulness toward others.

Some common post orphanage behaviors exhibited in the new family include-
Taken from BG center website - 

Poor self regulation 

Mixed maturity 


Learned helplessness

Controlling and avoiding behavior

Self-soothing and self-stimulating behavior 

Hyper-vigilance and "pro-active" aggressiveness

Feeling of entitlement

Extreme attention seeking

Indiscriminate friendliness with strangers 

All of our children have exhibited some or all of these behaviors. When I say orphanage behaviors I do not want to sound condescending in any way.
They have served each child well and allowed them to cope with the environment they lived in.

For a parent these behaviors are not desirable in a family setting. 
They are behaviors that feel very unhealthy once the child is with the family.
They do not build but instead can get in the way and tear down a healthy relationship.

Also when I talk about one child doing better than another or is easier than another I don't by any means want to belittle the one who has more struggles. 
They are learning and they may have come from a harder place.
Actually I am very proud of all of our children. They have worked so hard and have had to make major life changes and adjustments.

Seeing these changes in them;
Seeing them allowing us to love them and loving us back-

Sometime progress is slow and I can feel discouraged.
I pray about it all the time- 
to stay positive,
 to look back and see how far each child has come, already
to be patient
to enjoy the baby steps
and celebrate each little step in the right direction!

Each child is so different and we have to take a fresh approach with each child and often each circumstance.

In my next post I will tell you what POB (post orphanage behaviors) we are currently working on with our kiddos at home.


Dave said...


Thank you for your wisdom. I have really enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to each new entry. May God bless you all as you grow into the family He has planned.

We have been home 6 months with our little one and have been blessed with a true doll. God is so good! She is 2 and we have already had surgery. We do not have any other children, (so we do not have anything to compare to), but adoption is so many things. I believe we have covered many of the emotions people go through. She has changed our life.

Again, thanks for all you share. It is such an inspiration.

God bless you all!!


Debbie said...

Love all your posts! Wanted to comment on this one because it hits home. Our oldest adopted daughter has MANY of these behaviors, but she was never in an orphanage. Her first six months was spent with an unpredictable mentally unstable mother. Our recent move made us realize she was not just strong-willed, but fearful and not as attached as she should be! Our youngest, on the other hand, was in an institution for her first 20 months. She has NONE of these behaviors because she was in an awesome institution that cared for her, protected her, and helped her build an attachment. Anyway, it all comes down to relationships. I would like to hear about your newest kiddos' issues, but it would also be helpful to hear if any of your other children still have some of these behaviors after being home for awhile.

Wendy said...

Love this post. Reminds me of the behaviors I saw in my daughter when we first adopted her at age of 5. That was 5 years ago and some of these behaviors still linger when she is stressed but they are mostly gone. Took a lot of time and a lot of trust but worth everything to see her smile her smile that says "All is right in my world." You are exactly right though..these very behaviors are what helped her to survive orphanage life and they are not bad behaviors because they might be the very behaviors that help her to be a successful adult and succeed. Just not always appropriate for family life.

Yvette said...

Don't forget the heartbreaking part. Our little guy had surgery yesterday. Despite constant reminders that we are here to help he still try's to do it all on his own. He doesn't tell us when he is in pain until he is into tears (he also doesn't show pain like our other kids) my heart breaks to think of his years of self reliance

adoption journey said...

And lets not forget HOARDING! Two of our adopted kiddos hoard and hide food, and anything else they deem as a treasure. Little piles of stuff, stashed in hiding places all over the house. One son hides gloves, handwarmers, hats and everything to do with keeping warm too.

acceptance with joy said...

We've had all these behaviors with our adopted children... and they've never been in an orphanage. Also the current foster children do most of those things also.

So, it's the "having to watch out for themselves and survive" part of their lives that comes through with these strange things.

godhasnoproblems said...

Love this:

Seeing these changes in them;
Seeing them allowing us to love them and loving us back-

What a great and powerful perspective - and one that carries so much to help on the really hard days, I imagine!

Praying for your clan, as always!

Look forward to the other post (which I know is already here...I'm behind on blogs in reader!) so I know some current specifics about how I can be praying for some of your kiddos!

Annie said...

Love this Jean! Lizzie def had "orphanage survival behaviors. She had to, to get noticed, to get fed. It is something we still work on but she has grown so much and loves SO big and LOVES her family!!! God is SO good!

Nikki Benz said...

family first should be at the centre of our Australian way of life, not government bureaucracies. With the rising cost of living putting more and more pressure on families they need more income to function properly and make ends meet.