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Attachment through structure and nurture…and yes–it’s good and real…and WORTH IT!

Yesterday I went to a meeting at a local church where John Rosemond (well-known author on parenting) wanted to guide and share his theory that attachment is a MYTH (you can click here to read one of his articles to read a bit of his 2 cents here) and that our adopted children need “the same authoritative discipline our biological children need” (let me just say that was his quote NOT mine–I am NOT that kind of parent but rather hope to be one of love and structure…don’t think my bio kiddos need that type either…but I’ll save that post for another day!). Now, I have to say I had never heard of this author before–but I was very interested in hearing about his attachment myth–which I think is far-fetched, interesting and quite possibly even dangerous. While it would be nice/easy for a parent to think we can bring kids in from hard places and treat them as if they had never been away from love and nurture for a day in our home–I just can’t go there for the sake of truth–and that I want to be a parent that is willing to acknowledge hard truths and go to the hard places with my little ones and help them heal.

I think we need to be weary of hard-handed discipline not only for our adopted children–but for our biologicial precious ones as well. As I listened to the talk, my heart hurt for the children who may not benefit from healing–and our church needs to be guided to be a place of HEALING instead of hard-handedness. We need to not dismiss our children’s past or what their hearts may have been through–and we also do not need to be motivated by fear OR to allow the law overtake our structure and dismiss the extra love and nurture our kiddos from hard places may need.

I worry about little ones whose hearts and feelings are overlooked—and who are never given nurture and structure to heal. And what WE MISS by understanding healing and the JOY in watching healing take place! We have NOTHING TO FEAR with God as our guide—and as healing takes place in our churches, we will have stronger orphan, foster and adoption ministries!!!

I can’t say enough about Dr.Karyn Purvis and her ministry Empowered to Connect. Parenting authors and advisors in our church could benefit so much by learning from her—listening to her teaching based on years and years of practice and research—and wonderful testimonies of healing!!! I love that Dr.Purvis has posted so many of talks on line for adoptive parents to learn from–and I’m especially excited to attend her Empowered to Connect Conference in Denver this April with one of my Created for Care sidekicks Christy Elphick. (Lemme know if you are going to this too! Would love to see you there!) We are actually going as we are planning on choosing a few of these topics to have this ministry come share for the next Created for Care retreat in 2012!!! (Dates to be announced soon for that so you all can mark your calendars!)

So–while I went to the John Rosemond talk to be a voice for the voiceless and what I believe is the purpose of the church (to be a place of healing)–I had to leave early because I had my little guy with me because against Rosemond’s ideas on the myth of attachment–I actually believe there is such a thing as attachment and my little man goes every where with me for now…although I think he’s getting ready to stay some with some of my VBFFs that he sees every day too;). LOVE that he will go to others now and how much JOY flows from his heart now as healing has taken place! I can’t tell you guys how much FUN the results are of going to the hard places and helping your children heal really can be! YES…it can be and IS hard–but I hope that the eyes will be opened of these other parenting experts who haven’t had or experienced the joy of adopting and they, too, will begin leading our churches into being places of HEALING and HOPE more than any other thing!

OK…I can’t leave just on that–I want to leave you with a RESOURCE that is just INCREDIBLE. Ok…so find 1 hour in your day and listen to THIS talk from Dr.Purvis on parenting our children from hard places. LINK TO DR.PURVIS’S TALK ON CHILDREN FROM HARD PLACES here. (This site offers lots of free talks and amazing resources to better equip you as an adoptive parent.) SO AMAZINGLY GOOD AND HOPEFUL!!!! If you don’t have that 1 hour to listen now–here are some of my favorite quotes from the 1 hour session…

There is “lots of heavy handed discipline in our church”…we need to be a voice for HEALING.

“When parents are equipped to help their adopted children HEAL there WILL BE more adoption and fostering in the church.”

“If we are going to be successful in our church orphan, adoption and ministry—in pre-adoptoin, adoption, post-adoption, prefoster, foster, post-foster—we need to create environments where individuals have permission and a place to grieve their loss.”

“Most of us have a background of single structure parenting—and in that structure our natural way of parenting will hold up just fine under that weight…but if you build a 72 story sky-rises on that foundation—every hairline fracture is going to open wide. There are a lot of families who would do GREAT with a low risk child. A lot of us do great with our own low risk child. But when you take a child from the hard place, the weight is intense—so the fractures that are in every foundation open in those families and our families have to be in the process of healing.”

“In adoption studies–50% of adoptive parents are avoidant in their attachment style (meaning they meet physical and basic needs–but not emotional needs…they are present at games and bed time…they give quick hugs and touches but naturally don’t make time for LONG hugs, talks and times of healing). These parents are good-hearted parents willing to take on the challenges of adoption and the orphan crisis–but it also means you have a child who has wounding and the avoidant parent has trouble going to their own pain so it’s really hard for the child to go to the pain.”

“Our churches need to be places of healing—and it will be a place of healing for the orphan when we allow it to also be a place of healing for the mommies and daddies in our own body. We need a culture in our church where it’s okay not to be perfect…until we meet the Maker we are in process.”

“If we could turn our waiting period of adoption into a healing period, we are on the right path.”

“Respect the privacy of family…we can’t catch up on what our children have missed…we can’t do that…but we can spend time with our children and build relationships of family. Let’s not expect newly adopted families–like the mom coming home with baby from the Ukraine on Friday to be in church on Sunday…lets create a culture in the church where we are taking these families meals but not overwhelming them in their family’s newness. For a child just coming home, keep life simple. Let’s make the coming home time for the children to learn who they are and what a family is. Let’s create a culture that honors and supports the family so they can heal.”

“Give families the support they need—cutting grass, taking food, helping with carpool for older children…and understand that families who are fostering and adopting may be dealing with lots of hurt–the child who hasn’t experienced love may be for months pushing away love from their new family…and these families are carrying a world of weight. BUT we can help them with this weight by giving them support. Give families the support they need until their little ones begin to connect as a family…and then you can come in and spend more time with their family.”

“We really have gotten in as a church into the letter of the law and not seeing the heart of God.”

“Lets look at the needs to orphans and our families with eyes of insight…creating an environment for our families—a culture of balance of structure and nurture.”

I don’t want to be a parent of cheap grace or the letter of the law—but of nurture and structure. “There are distancing strategies for parents and distancing strategies for children. There are connecting strategies for parents and connecting strategies for children.” Attachment happens through connecting–and that’s what we want to do–to connect to our children. Good behavior isn’t our goal–connecting is. AND good behavior is a biproduct of connections.

After you listen to her talk/s and begin to understand attachment and bonding—you begin to see it is nothing to fear and there is really so much hope in being brave enough and even obedient to our calling as adoptive parents to GO THERE with our children. There is so much JOY. There can be so much TRIUMPH! AND as we learn how to help them heal–our adoption, fostercare and orphan ministries will GROW and become STRONGER!!! Seek truth and wisdom–and be expectant and equipped to cultivate a spirit of HEALING in our churches!

Lara - February 12, 2011 - 2:37 pm

Grrreat, just what adoptive parents need to hear – NOT! I am a bit of a mushy gushy mama as it is – I still “wear” my almost 17 month old because I love being close to her! I can’t imagine being heavy handed with any of my children, let alone an adopted one. Boo!

Tracy Sheehy - February 12, 2011 - 3:48 pm

I am so thankful that God is not heavy handed with me and loves me where I am at…takes my hand and moves me to where he wants me! I pray that I approach my parenting with love and grace understanding there has to be structure too. Thanks for sharing!

rachel - February 12, 2011 - 3:57 pm

so, so heart-breaking. i can’t tell you how deeply this disturbs me. attachment does not just pertain to adopted kids. it pertains to bio kids as well. studies show that 45% of low-income/high risk bio kids and i want to say 30% of “normal” kids are insecurely attached. all kids need to know that their voice matters. having parented two securely attached bio kids, then a baby from Ethiopian with pretty serious attachment issues initially, it have been SO clear that she was a *hurting* child. i had to take the initiative to work toward secure attachment, to show her i was dependable when she believed in the deepest parts of her being that she could depend on *no one*. it has taken a long time (been home 1 year soon and still not totally there). it has been painful for everyone, but so very worth it.

thank you, thank you for warning people about this person. it’s just gut wrenching to read this stuff coming out of the christian community. and in terms of discipline, it’s nothing new. so many christian parenting “experts” do not understand that the Hebrew women on the OT breastfed until their children were 3-5 years old, carried them, comforted them, slept near them. God is described as loving US in that same tender way. biblical parenting is NOT about being a control freak or raising mini-robots. it’s pouring yourself out to show God’s great love in a tangible way.

rachel - February 12, 2011 - 4:12 pm

i’m sorry for all the typos above — i meant “a baby from Ethiopia”, “it HAS been so clear”, and “the Hebrew women OF the Old Testament”. i didn’t proofread well enough because i was still reeling from the post! attachment is near and dear to my heart…

Ashley - February 12, 2011 - 5:40 pm

I had to weep after reading your post. We had no instruction what so ever when we adopted our first child. We have stumbled around and we love her so much, yet we come from a legalistic background and I know its not working and I felt like we were causeing her more problems. I am so thankful that you posted this so we can get good instruction for the two new babies we will be bringin home soon from Ethiopia. Thank you so much agian for posting this. I finally feel like there is some hope and I have someone reliable to go to.

Dawn - February 12, 2011 - 5:47 pm

WOW-have read a book of his and never would have suspected him to say that at all!!!! SHOCKED!!!!!!

I think there is such a balance with any child, but especially a child that has been hurt. With 8 different children all have come from very different places…..I can say that it has sooo much to do with personality, with where they came from, with circumstances – some you may or may not know of, and how their heart heals. This is sooo different for every child.

Julie Johnston - February 12, 2011 - 7:35 pm

I have read a couple of his books, and while some advice was helpful….in the end I found myself wondering if he had ever parented before. A 6 step plan is a nice idea…..and if it really worked we could all just follow the “rules” and turn out happy, dependable, responsible kids! However, I felt his books gave very little room for the “real meat” of a person…their heart. We all have strengths, weaknesses, sins, shortcomings, hurts…..and I believe each child’s little heart must be healed and guided a bit differently for each child. Yea for attatchment! We need to attatch to our kids so that we can learn, seek out and discern (with much prayer and wisdom from the Lord) how to best love each individual child and help them to heal and thrive! I am a little surprised he used the term “authoratative discipline”…..I did not glean that from his books! I really appreciate Dr. Purvis and all I have learned from her! Thank you for this post!

Rory Cookman - February 12, 2011 - 8:50 pm

You gave me a lot to think about. We are adopting from Ethiopia and I am learning a lot from those of you who already have your children home. From what I’m reading I agree with a lot of the attachment philosophy and really try to connect with my own kids in that way. Even in our biological family we have times where we need to spend with each child for a “healing” session because they are harboring hurt or misunderstanding. So, a lot of this is already resonating with me. I think that attachment is going to be really important as we bring an adopted child into our family and I don’t want to make light of it or jump to the next part of my thought too quickly, which is: How do we know when it is the right time to enforce the obeyance of family standards/rules? (And I don’t mean enforce in a harsh, dictator-like way. Maybe “holding accountable” would be a better phrase than “enforce.”) I mean that all of my children are guided through how to be a part of our family, how to interact with one another in a loving and Christ-like way, and the older a child gets the more we help guide them in becoming responsible for things like picking up their rooms, doing their school work, etc. I’m not one to be legalistic, but I also want to make sure I’m not swinging the pendulum too far the other way and neglecting that piece with my adoptive child, especially since we will consider him or her part of our forever family. (Btw: we are adopting an infant, so I know this doesn’t apply in the same way for those adopting older kids.) Two things I hope for my kids besides loving God and serving Him with their whole heart are that they know they are loved by us and are confidently moving into age-appropriate independence so they can one day be secure adults contributing positively to society. I hope this comes across right because I am in no way trying to be controversial. I am merely at the beginning stages of it all trying to ask the right questions so I can be the best parent for a child who needs nurture and structure. Sorry to write a novel. I will keep reading your posts to see what else I can learn along the way.
Thanks for stepping out on this! It helps!

Rory Cookman
Portland, Oregon

Beth Templeton - February 13, 2011 - 3:28 pm

Andrea thank you for directing me to Dr. Purvis’ talk. Very interesting and compelling. One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately is how the gospel of God’s unmerited favor looks and plays out, so to speak, in our parenting. He is all about relationship–relationship is the essence of the gospel. And I want my life to reflect the beauty and power of God’s grace. Every part of my life–especially my parenting.

Jeni - February 14, 2011 - 3:26 pm

Good for you for going and speaking up! I am seeing the confusion in our little guy as he has started 3 visits a week with bio dad who he does not know. It is heartbreaking. That is crazy to think it is a myth.