“Dear Ignacio, my partner and I adopted our child when he was four. At that time, we were told that our child had been a victim of CSA while in foster care. They didn’t give us many details and we have largely been avoiding the issue as we doubt he can remember anything. Our child is now 8 years old and has started to get curious about #bodies. A couple of times, he even made some comments that made me wonder if he already knows too much about sex. We are unsure how much we could or should consider his history of CSA at this age. We’re fine with providing some basic information, but his #curiosity and questions have been escalating. What is the appropriate approach here?”
Congratulations to you and your partner in growing your family. Welcoming a child into a family, especially an adopted child, is exciting, stressful, and overwhelming. There is much uncertainty that requires emotional processing, including the fact that many adopted children suffered abuse in their homes, as well in the very foster care that is supposed to protect them.
Clear information about any history of abuse is essential to the care and support that a child may need. It can be scary when we don’t know what happened before adoption, but we can’t ignore the unknown. There is also the reality that you can’t predict how your child will react to #triggers or be impacted by the #trauma that he suffered.
Regardless of the age of your son at the time of the abuse, parents should not avoid the topic. Whether you think he remembers or not, this trauma can affect him for the rest of his life.
Curiosity and questions are normal for children of any background. Consider the possibility that your 8-year-old may be #self-stimulating, #role-playing, experimenting with his peers, or asking others questions about bodies and #relationships. There is little you can do about his curiosity except to be responsive and supportive.
If you work on your relationship with your son and develop open communication skills within a trusting container, he can feel safe to explore his curiosity and ask questions from you and other trusting adults in his life. This is much better than the alternative of seeking answers from anyone, or any resource.
If you think your son is engaging in problematic sexual behaviors (PSB), here are some things to watch for: acting out adult-like sexual behavior, talking about or knowing about specific sexual acts, and behaving sexually in public places. These behaviors may require your special attention if you think your son engages in them frequently, with obsession, and in a way that is harmful to himself or others.
Any form of harming behavior, including self-harm or #coercion, should be attended to immediately. You can raise the issue with your son calmly yet assertively, seek counseling, and establish rules and guidelines around safety and privacy that work for your family.
Children are resilient and with continued support their healing journey can be powerful. Child sexual abuse is a trauma that happens in childhood but does not stay there. Structure and repetition are your friend in creating a predictable environment for your son.
The adoption process is stressful and traumatic for the child, as they navigate a new environment with new people. By creating this predictable container, having patience, listening, answering questions without projecting fear or shame and working with trauma-informed professionals familiar with healing justice, you can make all the difference in the world.
Here is a link to an article that gives a breakdown of age appropriate tips for engaging with your child about #sexuality:
#heal2end #CSAsurvivor #survivorship #adoption #sexeducation #fostercare #healingjourney