The Benefits of Hide and Seek for an Adoptee


Hide and seek is a classic game for kids of all ages. Infants play it in the form of “peekaboo,” where they delight in the repetitive nature of seeing a loved one pop out from behind hands and surprise them.  Young kids play it in the form of hide-and-seek and also through burying objects and having others try and find them. Through this, they learn the concept of object permanence — that things still exist even though they can’t see them — a vital concept for healthy growth and development.

 How does an adoptee benefit from playing hide-and-seek?

Object permanence is an interesting concept to think about from the perspective of the young adoptee:  something or someone can still exist even though I can’t see them. Many of the clients we work with have suffered from previous abuse, neglect and loss. For some of these clients, these experiences have rocked the foundation of this concept.  Their internal working model shifts to the perspective that  “people leave and don’t come back.” Understandably this can cause a child to feel anxious, scared or guarded as they transition into a new adoptive home and culture.

The very good news about all of this is that kids are able to alter their internal working model and learn to trust adults again. In fact, the very game of hide and seek is a simple way to reinforce this, and many of the parents that we have worked with at BPAR have talked about how much their kids love to play this game.  Even as they grow older, they still like to hide and surprise their parent every night when he or she gets home from work. Every. Single. Night.  Although this can feel annoying after awhile — here are some things to think about:

What can your child learn from hide and seek?

Hide and seek is a great way to help teach your adopted child the concept of object permanence. There can be great healing in this process of the parent finding the child over and over and over again. It may seem trivial but think about it this way: Every time you find your child hiding or hide from your child and he or she finds you, you are teaching them some really important concepts:

  1. You remembered them (and they are worth remembering).
  2. Parents leave and they come back (and boy is it fun and scary at the same time).
  3. The parent exists even when the child can’t see them.
  4. The child exists as his or her own independent person even if the parent can’t see him.

So, the  next time your child wants you to find them after you arrive home from work, think about it as an easy way for you to help him or her heal and grow into the healthy, independent adult that they can be!

Written by Kelly DiBenedetto
Boston Post Adoption Resources 

About Kelly DiBenedetto, LMHC, ATR

Kelly DiBenedetto, LMHC, ATR is Clinical Director at Boston Post Adoption Resources. To read her bio, please visit BPAR's Team page.