According to Dr. David Kirshner, parents can cause unintentional harm to their adopted children by projecting their problems onto the kids. He says there is a risk of causing what he calls Adopted Child Syndrome. The condition is described by emotional problems, anger issues, and difficulty maintaining social relationships. The parents in such cases are unaware that they have done anything wrong, when in fact, they are the direct cause.

Abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol exposure, and loss of their primary caregiver can all cause trauma. Trauma experienced before the age of six can actually affect brain development. Trauma increases stress hormones and changes the structure of the brain as it develops. For that reason, adopted children may exhibit issues with attachment, emotional regulation, and impulse control, among other things. Anyone of those things may have been affected by substance abuse exposure.

Through bonding with an adopted child correctly and considerate actions, the brain is capable of rewiring itself to perform in a healthier way. Likewise, poor parenting can also influence the brain. An adoptive parent can end up doing permanent damage to a child’s psyche if parenting is not done thoughtfully.

Dr. Kirshner points out ways parents are doing more damage to their adopted child than they may realize:

1. Parenting without intention—unintentional actions can be seen as angry or impulsive, causing the child to become fearful.

2. Parents haven’t dealt with their own past—they must first resolve the hurtful issues in their own past because a child’s actions could trigger emotions stemming from past events.

3. Putting your problems off on your child instead of owning them—if your child does something that upsets you because of your past, you need to recognize that.

4. Unintentionally shaming your kids—instead of trying to “fix” a behavior that your child is having when your “old wounds surface,” you must figure out why you are reacting in a certain way, and that maybe some of your past experiences could be triggering your reaction.