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Catching up and…More on Attachment

SOOO…we were snowed/iced in for yet ANOTHER day on Friday!!! SO–the kids missed 5 days last week and it JUST SO HAPPENS Monday is a holiday (MLK Day!) SOO…we are hope AGAIN! Being stuck at home last week without being able to leave and drive…we had get creative. By Friday I was out of paint and play dough–so I pulled out the clay and toothpicks. Oh my…staying home and NOT LEAVING the house for a week…it’ll drive you crazy! BUT it did look like Frankie baby had fun:)
We made all kinds of dimensional shapes…And for the Frank fans;)…he wants to send you a…

OH…this boy is my HEART! LOVE him!

ALSO…on Sunday we had dinner with the Denton’s ONE LAST TIME IN THEIR OLD HOUSE…the house in our OLD neighborhood—the house we have SO many memories in!!! This was the hood we met in–and thankfully Aunt Nisia and other friends are still there so we don’t have to totally kiss that neighborhood goodbye. BUT we will miss this house as we have so many memories there. SO…we packed up and I had to hold my breath as I walked through…seeing it empty. I got emotional when we left this neighborhood…but never thought I’d get as emotional when the Denton’s left too. THANKFULLY they will be moving closer to us…so we are coping just fine;) Here the kiddos are having their last dinner in the house…baby William not so happy here..

So thankful for the memories in this neighborhood and thankful Isaac will still be a part of them! (Don’t some of you just have a special place in your heart for the first neighborhood you lived in and the memories there?!)

Aunt Nisia was telling me about hair twisting…and I have a feeling when she sees these pictures she is going to call me and tell me I did it all wrong!!! I think it looks a little too girly for our little man! Maybe the curls need to be smaller next time and it’ll be a little more hip…

This would be really fun on a little girl…sorry if you think it’s cute on him–but as soon as he wakes up this momma has got to pick it out and try something else:) Ready for Kristi Johnson’s and Nisia’s African Haircare talk at the retreat!!! As you can tell, I need it;)


First–Disclosure: I am NOT an attachment expert. BUT I have read so much about attachment as well as chosen to meet with an attachment therapist BECAUSE I’m not an expert. I take my mommying seriously–and I want to learn how to be a better parent to BOTH my biological children and Isaac. I also am not a parent who lives in denial saying that “my baby PROBABLY won’t have attachment problems”—because any child seperated from their birth mom at any point whether day 1 or day 2,000 will have attachment issues to some degree. I feel like it’s my job as a mom to KNOW what to look for, to KNOW my child and HOW he is crying for attachment help, and strategies to help him feel loved. I will also say there are some EXTREME attachment therapists and methods for healing out there–but the EXTREME is for the most part for the EXTREME attachment cases—and there are different degrees of RAD (RAD is an attachment disorder…it can be very mild or severe)…and many of our adopted children will have it at different degrees–but as we continue to pour into them consistently and through His love–and learn how to help them heal…HEALING IS POSSIBLE! It is NOT something to be afraid of (perfect love drives our fear…and our God is ABLE to heal these childen!)

First, there are not as many resources out there to read about attachment–but there are some out there that we found and loved. We loved Dr.Purvis’s book “The Connected Child”. I thought this book was written from a VERY hopeful perspective…so I would start here!!! Another favorite and MUST READ adoption book has been Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen. It was a WEALTH of knowledge from having a support group, rethinking your child’s journey to you (opens your eyes and helps the story NOT BECOME YOUR STORY…HOW YOU FOUND THEM…HOW YOU WAITED FOR THEM…HOW YOU LONGED FOR THEM…Because it is NOT your story—it is their’s…and that is where the heart of attachment begins is beginning to understand and try to identify with THEIR story and where they have been and what they have been through so far.) I also love the play therapy ideas in this book…just so many great things in this one. One last attachment book for you is this…Deborah Gray’s “Attaching in Adoption”. Thankfully–most adoption waits take around 1 year or so…plenty of time to read and take in these books. I underlined…highlighted…bookmarked…and have returned to these over and over and over again. I think these should be required readings of anyone adopting whether it’s bringing home a baby at day 1 or 15 years. I will say what I read made more sense AFTER we were home–but I was so thankful I had read before also.

Another resource helpful in developing our “beginning attachment plan” for our family was Nancy Thomas’s VERY short pamplet type book on “Taming the Tiger While It’s Still a Kitten”—you can read how we informed others of our plan and our ACTUAL plan here…from our June 15th post just before we traveled. It is SO important to let your friends and family know your attachment plan, explain WHY you have an attachement plan and how they can help you by supporting you during this time. This plan was for the first 3 months home…and then we changed it up for 3-6 months. We have been home almost 7 months now—and we have branched out JUST a bit. There is a small group of people Isaac will go to. WE (Richard or me) are the ONLY ones who still feed him (so he sees us as his caregivers and the ones who meet his needs). He still sleeps in our bedroom (in the office connected to our bedroom). I still hold him A LOT. And we do attachment exercises every day–nothing scheduled just randomly as I think of connecting and these really help me gage REALLY how he is attaching, if he is having a “good” attachment day and if I need to slow down and really connect/reconnect a bit more.

One reason it is so important to be educated on attachment–is children often can cover up their feelings and attachment disorder. It can very easily be overlooked…and then they hit ages 7+ when (according to the experts) attachment disorder symptoms really come out…and then you can’t go back–but there is STILL HOPE!! (There is ALWAYS, ALWAYS hope!) BUT the more you are educated in the BEGINNING–when your child is FIRST home…the better opportunity your baby, toddler or child will be able to connect and not struggle later with attachment problems. It would be very easy to just pick right up with life and boogie on–and for years you might think everything is just beautiful–but for this mommy…it’s just not worth the risk. Now that I know what to look for–it is very clear to me what we need to work on AND there ARE things we need to work on…but for my sweetie’s sake I don’t want to share too much as I know in years to come this will be more personal to him and hopefully something we have worked through.

I feel like it’s wiser for me as a mom to invest NOW rather than wait for bigger problems to surface–and the “attachment parent trainer” we talk to said most parents unfortunately wait until there are BIG problems to get help. BUT there is so much hope–and SO MUCH MORE HOPE if parents are educated BEFORE and know how to help their children now. SO MUCH HOPE!!! I believe Satan would want nothing more than for us to ignore this issue and let the problems escalate and mature–but God is bigger than that–and He is not only calling us to change these orphans from being orphans and to help them not only become but to also really FEEL like daughters and sons…WE know we love them…WE know they are loved as much as our biological childrena…but when a child has experienced trauma or change in caregivers or has been seperated from a birth mother they cover up their hearts over and over to survive and keep going. It’s like a onion, and we have to help them peel away layers one at a time so they can not only attach and connect to us–but with others as well.

Attachment problems also don’t just happen with adopted children–they can happen if a mom is depressed during pregnancy, if a baby/toddler/child was ill a lot–or undiagnosed pain (colic, ear infections, etc), frequent moves, changes in caregivers, going through a traumatic experience…the list goes on. SO…it is really good to know what to look for to see how your little one is connecting in general. Problems attaching will look different depending on age. An unattached baby may not want to look in your eyes—or rather he will—but only wants to look in your eyes on his terms (when HE wants to)…or he/she doesn’t want to hug you back or kiss you on your terms–but rather on his or her terms. A toddler may be hoarding food…and at other times inappropriately clingy or hyper. As they get older, children may be really chatty…talking about nothing all the time just to be chatty–tell lies for no reason (silly lies that don’t make sense to even lie about…like they forgot how to open the toothpaste lies)–and seem to often lack conscience. As you get to know your child–and as you PRAY for the Lord to give you wisdom ALSO using what you have learned from resources like those incredible books and experts in this area if you have them available in your area (I think it’s good for every family to have a “go to” help person if you and when you might need it…I’m personally just interested in knowing as much as I can so I love talking with any specialist I can…and want to learn WHAT to look for and HOW to love in the right way. And I love sharing what I learn with my other adoption friends who this is new territory for too…because I love their children and I want to see them heal and thrive just as much as my own children.

You see–loving will look different to these children with attachment problems. It will not be natural–just like it’s not natural to have attachment problems…and the reasons they have attachment problems in the first place is because things didn’t happen naturally for them. SO…we have to be equipped and ready–and ready to love in new ways. And to toss our pride in the trash can and denial too…acknowledge that our little ones will have lots of extra needs…they just will!…and part of our calling is to be ready and help them heal. As you see gains, it will become less unknown and you will begin to see attachment truly form–and it will even be fun on some days…while on others your heart may be heavy because it’s just one of those days (cast your burdens to Him because He cares for you!)

Ok…signing off–because you never know what our nights bring–but our little man has actually slept a bit more the last two nights so I am thankful!!! Our attachment therapist said it was actually a good thing he cries out for us at night (REALLY??? I’m not feeling that so much!)…BUT thankfully we are getting to the stage where he doesn’t need us as much at night and this has been on his own as he feels more and more secure and loved and attached. I’ve realized he sleeps better at night when I rock him longer–interesting, huh? Sooo…we’re still a work in progress–and we plan on being that for the next 18+ years. There can be fear in the unknowns, but you just have to give it over the Lord and ask Him to help you through it. And take ONE day at a time. And you have to…as my grandmother says—“also use the brain the good Lord gave you”…and read up and educate yourself too!

I’m here if anyone has questions on attachment–I most likely can’t answer them…but if I can I will—and if I can’t…I’ll connect you to someone who can. And I’ll post some attachment exercises you can each day in the week ahead. Sorry I won’t be as much help to those with older ones–but for those of you with 0-3 years these exercises will be great for you too. Hope you all have a great week!

Lara - January 16, 2011 - 11:44 pm

I’m excited to hear some of the good stuff at the retreat about attachment. We definitely need to get reading on it.

I followed the discussion on th listserv last week about how to tell people that you will be initially parenting the adopted child a little differnently and I am already dreading trying to explain it. The problem is, the people who will have the hardest time understanding are the closest to us, parents, grandparents. I know they’ll think we’re just being nuts! But I suppose it’s better to hurt their feelings than overwhelm our child with a bunch of strangers.

Kellie - January 17, 2011 - 2:16 am

my husband and I are EARLY in the process of considering adoption (well, beyond considering, but not quite starting) … as I’ve been reading several books, I haven’t found a lot of specific information about attachment. Just that it’s something REALLY important to be educated about. So … thanks for the timely post and great resources in this area!

Allison - January 17, 2011 - 8:41 am

Hi Andrea,

This is a great post! I am coming to the retreat and wondered if you could give us ladies any advice on how to help our children while their mommies are gone for a few days. This will be the first time that I leave our adopted daughter (we’ve been home almost 9 months) and I’m a little worried about it attachment wise. If you or anyone you know might have some helpful tips or things to say/do to help reassure would be wonderful!


Jen Morgan - January 17, 2011 - 8:55 am

Would love to hear the exercises. We adopted B at 2 1/2-now almost 4. She is doing really well (still crawls into our bed in the middle of the night, needs mommy and daddy when she gets hurt, etc) but I think we can all benefit from attaching. I think of it as putting money in the bank because weare starting the process for another little one. Thanks for the reminder and the info. I also loved reading everything while waiting for B:)

Tiffany - January 17, 2011 - 9:52 am

This was so helpful to read today, as I am right now sitting in a hotel getting ready to head to the airport and get on a plane to Ethiopia. We get to meet our son!! I have not walked this road before, but I think prayer is a huge part of this. We have been praying for months that God would begin the healing process in our little guy’s heart and prepare his heart for us and our heart for him.

Sandi - January 17, 2011 - 2:43 pm

I love, love that you are touching on these important yet often ignored issues! After reading adoptee forums in researching adoption I have been shocked by how many adopted teens/adults feel detached & like they are “outsiders” in their own families/lives. Helping parents understand attachment, the brain, & the importance of building identity is going to help so many families. God is definitely working through you to be a light for so many families who are on this journey together!

Kelly Raudenbush - January 17, 2011 - 10:26 pm

Would you mind tweaking the section you wrote here about attachment and reposting it on We Are Grafted In? Our readers are always looking for information on attachment and I think your words here would be helpful — Let me know!