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Book Review: From Fear to Love: Parenting Difficult Adopted Children by B. Bryan Post

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We would like to think that adults are responsible for their own behavior and that their actions are the result of conscious thought processes. We are further fooling ourselves when we try to apply that same thinking to children. What may seem very much like willful misbehavior is oftentimes the only way a child can communicate fears or anxiety.

B. Bryan Post understands this perceptual problem from two sides—as an authority on child behavior and as an adoptee. He was not a “perfect child” and he understands what motivates inappropriate behavior. Post has written From Fear to Love: Parenting Difficult Adopted Children as a guide for parents who aren’t sure if or what they are doing wrong when the children they so hopefully welcomed into their lives are destructive, hateful, or emotionally volatile.

Some adopted children arrive with awful experiences engraved on their hearts. Whether they were abused, neglected, or frequently moved from home to home, they bear scars from the traumas they have endured. To protect themselves from further hurt, they may behave in ways that are unexplainable or unacceptable. Parents—in the middle of trying to keep it all together—do not always grasp what is troubling their child.

Post “helps parents understand the impact of early life trauma and the impact of interruptions in the attachment process.” These events result in a range of behavioral and emotional problems that may be very difficult for parents to understand. Children who are at-risk, suffer from ADD, ADHD, RAD (Reactive attachment disorder), or ODD (Oppositional defiant disorder), or exhibit emotional and/or behavioral problems are especially challenging to parents already faced with a difficult job.

Post emphasizes a Stress Model in dealing with negative behaviors and emotions. Many children are not well equipped to deal with stress. Children who have already been traumatized may react inappropriately when they feel stress. It’s important to understand that what a child may interpret as a stressful situation may be a simple part of daily life to the parent. If this is the case, the parent is already at a disadvantage in solving problems.

Post offers methods of dealing with and overcoming behaviors such as lying, stealing,  and aggressiveness often seen in “disturbed” children.  He teaches parents the value of understanding, love, and patience in the application of potent parenting tools. While his book is targeted at adoptive families in crisis, any family suffering severe behavioral problems could benefit from his advice.

Bottom line: Would I buy From Fear to Love? Yes, for families in crisis, adoptive or otherwise.

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