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Posted Aug 3rd, 2009 at 10:37 am by

Dear Dr. Madansky,

We have just adopted our 12 month old daughter.  She was neglected in her birth home and seems very independent and somewhat shy with us.  Do you have any advice?

Dear Parent,

Congratulations on your adoption!  I am glad that your  daughter now has attentive and kind parents.

Ideally, the first year of life is when children learn that they are lovable and important by how they are treated and thus to trust that others will care for them.  Your daughter did not get those messages in her birth home.  She could not rely on her birth parents and had to fend for herself, so it makes sense that she is independent.  She did not learn how to give and receive affection, so she is shy with you. Of course, her temperament also plays a role in her behavior.

Now is the time that you can begin to make up for what she missed.  She will need the kind of care that you would give to a baby – gently approaching her and paying close attention, singing to her, holding her, feeding her, and playing with fingers and toes and letting her know by your words and your actions that she is cherished.

See how it goes and check with your pediatrician, or a specialist s/he recommends, if you feel that you need more help.

Warm regards,

Deborah Madansky, MD