First, if your child is telling lies, try to approach the situation with empathy, empathy, and more empathy. It will not help you to parent from the traditional viewpoint of misbehavior and punitive consequences. Often, adoptees have little regard for consequences. You may threaten to take away a prized possession, only to have the child say, “Take it. I don’t care.” And then nobody feels any better.
From the point of view of many adoptees, they may feel as if the world has been lying to them from the time they were babies. Even the most loving, open, nurturing parents cannot take away the fact that some adoptees feel like they are living a false identity. This can happen to any child under any adoption circumstances. Even if you have openness and contact, your child has the right to feel lost, lied to, and rejected.
Rather than deny your children’s feelings and take their emotions as a personal rejection, find the space in your heart to accept that this is a natural response by some children to being adopted.
Not all children will feel this way, of course. But some will. And if your children do feel this way, acknowledging it will help you understand many of their antisocial behaviors. They are doing the best they can to cope with huge, confusing feelings. Sometimes these coping strategies lead to behaviors such as lying, stealing, taking food, and engaging in self-harm.
It is important not to label your child. If your child struggles with lying, focus on the actual behavior, but do not call the child a “liar.” If your child steals, discuss how it is not acceptable to take things, but do not call the child a “thief.” Labels make it harder for people to change. Part of having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset is to understand those antisocial behaviors can eventually change.
The key is the word eventually. Your child has spent years building up big feelings, and if you expect to handle lying as a one-and-done, zero tolerance issue, you are choosing a mindset that will lead to frustration and despair. This is a process, a day-by-day learning of how to cope in the world without defaulting to maladaptive behaviors. Those behaviors may clearly be wrong to you, but to your child, they may feel safe and comforting.