Pray For Adoption With Child Like Faith

 

Whether you are waiting for an adoption placement, walking next to a birth mom, or know an adoptee, here are some ways to pray for the adoption community, with child like faith.

Pray for their Grief. There is grief that exists uniquely for all parts of the adoption triad (birth mom-adoptee-adoptive family). There is loss and joy existing all at the same time. Pray that these emotions would be experienced without shame.

Pray for Openness. Pray that there would be openness that is right for all those involved. Every adoption situation is different, and openness looks different for everyone.

Pray for Peace and Comfort. For peace and comfort through the life lived and forever changed by adoption as a birth mom, adoptee and adoptive parent.

Pray for Perseverance. Adoption is a journey and is one that can change day to day for everyone involved. Emotions often run high and stamina can run low. Support systems can change and the road ahead looks uncertain. Pray for perseverance to press through the circumstances.

 

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God:

that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

I John 5:14

 

written by Amanda Harmon

Celebrating Mother’s Day With Your Foster Momma Friends

 

Last year was my second Mother’s Day. A celebration that was hard fought for after several years of infertility, grieving, and then choosing a brand-new journey of foster care and adoption. My very first Mother’s Day went quietly. It was a couple months after our first official placement with twins, and I did not want to make a big deal out of it but was still a big deal to me. At the time I was at home focusing on bonding, worrying if I would be “mom-enough” for these kids in my care, and wondering if they might be reunited with their biological mom. It would be good for them all to have that, to find healing and be together again, though painful for me. It was memorable, but free of people’s expectations about how I should feel about the day.

My second Mother’s Day, however, will always stick with me because we were remarkably close to our finalization date! A staggering amount of people wanted to celebrate my FIRST Mother’s Day with me, because of the adoption. “CONGRATS on your very first Mother’s Day!” they would say. Over and over this happened. They did not ask, did not think, did not know that their assumptions and lack of understanding about foster care would feel immediately painful. I spent many moments correcting and saying “second” Mother’s Day. It brought up an entire concoction of emotions that looked a lot like anger. I did not misunderstand their intentions, they wanted to celebrate the adoption with me. They wanted to share in my joy. They did not know the date of our placement like people know birth dates. It was an easy mistake.

Every time “first” was uttered, I just could not help but think of my foster momma friends who did not get to celebrate an adoption that month. The ones that were battling for the emotional healing of their little fosters. Losing sleep to help their kids cope, cleaning up messes (both emotional and physical) that are bigger than some parents with bio kids will ever understand.

Would those people trying to make a big deal about my “First” Mother’s Day celebrate those moms too?

Would they understand the emotional cost of fostering? Would foster moms be “mom enough” for them to give a happy Mother’s Day to regardless of whether they got to keep their littles? Were those well-meaning people willing to wade into the muddy waters of foster care and recognize the utter PAIN that can come from this holiday? To recognize that somewhere out there is a biological mother who is feeling wrecked about the kids she cannot see? Would they notice that fear that sometimes sneaks in when foster mom’s worry that they are not equipped enough to help these kids through their storm?

I’m not sure. After all that is a lot to unload on a well-wisher.

It is something worth saying though, isn’t it? That mom life doesn’t start when a judge declares it to be so. While it sounds like such a happy ending to focus on the day that things are final, adoption is not the goal of foster care. Being a mom these kids need is, even if they don’t want one.

Foster mommas might wake up to an angry child who is struggling with their first (or fifth) Mother’s Day away from their birth mom. Their kid may have had 6 different mom’s they have lived with in their lifetime. Their kids might love on them, or completely ignore them. They might need someone, anyone, to send them a text and say, “Happy Mother’s Day, you are doing a great job no matter what this day looks like for you!”. It may be a good day for them, a quiet one, or a painful one where they try their best to comfort a child who has melted down into an angry puddle.

What they do need, unquestionably, is to be SEEN as moms. It is who they are, regardless of the legalities. Don’t forget them this Mother’s Day.

 

by Deb Uber

Embracing Autism

 

Autism can seem mysterious to people that have not experienced someone with the diagnosis in their family or know people that have the diagnosis. It can leave one feeling uncertain about how to respond to someone who does not make eye contact or respond with enthusiasm.  One might ask “how do I communicate with someone with the diagnosis?”

General Information

One thing we know for sure is that not all persons are the same regardless of the diagnosis. It can range from mild to severe in symptoms and functioning. Only a doctor or psychologist can diagnose it, and they do not use a blood test or medical test to detect it. They must look at behaviors and development stages of a person. There is not a known single cause other than differences in brain structure and function. Brain scans show that there is difference in the structure when compared to others without the symptoms. It is treated with behavioral therapy to learn skills to interact with others better and manage emotions. It can be assessed as early as two years of age and is four times more likely to be diagnosed in males. Forty percent of children do not speak.

Common Characteristics

Many persons start at a young age appearing distant from others and not responding to their name being called, and they lack eye contact. Their face and voice tone do not show emotion, and they may not join in with others to play or do activities. They have interest in certain objects they repetitively play with such as lining up cars and other repetitive behaviors. Difficulty transitioning from routines and activities is common and inability to process sensory inputs from the environment. They may cover their ears or eyes because the sounds and sights literally hurt or are too strong compared to the general populations experience.  Certain textures of food and fabrics or flashing lights can feel extremely strong to them. Their brain does work the same for them to pick up on the social cues that everyone else learns to express themselves, but they do love and care about others.

Reasons for Challenging Behavior

As mentioned above, persons with Autism have difficulty with unstructured time and are sensitive to their environment.  The overwhelming feeling, they experience with the sensory inputs can create stress and anxiety. The sensory overload makes it difficult for them to focus, and they may become irritable and resistant due to discomfort. They do have feelings, but they struggle with how to express them in way that others understand. A change in their routine, transitioning from activities, feeling hungry, tired or sick can make it difficult for them to express themselves, and they get angry or frustrated. Signs of stress can be pacing, rocking, or repeating the same question.

Tips for Interacting  

Speak clearly and precise in short sentences so that children feel less overwhelmed. Using pictures of items can help them communicate their needs. Activities that relax children are bubbles, music, and swimming, when talking with teens use their name and ask questions about their interest. Address adults as you would anyone and say what you mean directly. Take time to listen and wait for responses. They  need our respect and love.

 

written by Lisa Richardson

Basics for Surviving at Home With Trauma-Impacted Kids

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought stress, anxiety, and fear into our lives in unprecedented ways. As an agency, our hearts are burdened heavily for our adoptive families, knowing that many of you already live in a household full of stress, anxiety, and fear due to struggles and trauma in your adopted children’s lives. School can typically provide a respite from difficulties in the home for both you and your child so in its absence, we wanted to share some helpful behaviors and attitudes you must remember to focus on to help your family survive, and maybe even thrive, during this chaotic time. Our Nightlight offices and Post Adoption Connection Center (PACC) are here to support you, so please reach out for any help you need to any of our staff or Heather with the PACC at [email protected].

 

Keep your child regulated – We all know prevention is better than being forced to respond to a crisis. Stay on top of the simple things you can do every day to keep your child regulated and potentially prevent the tantrums, meltdowns, dysregulation, and outbursts.

  • Keep a regular schedule of healthy snacks and meals, drinking plenty of water, making sure they are getting good rest, and physical activity. As adults, we know how cranky we can get when we are “hangry” and we have the maturity to handle ourselves better. Perhaps your child’s meltdown or bad attitude is due to be hungry, thirsty, tired, or under stimulated. Before you blame their past trauma, ask yourself when the last time they had snack was. If it was more than 2 hours ago, grab and apple or granola bar for them.
  • Create a routine. Children thrive in routine and especially our children with trauma who live in a constant state of uncertainty and hyper-vigilance. If they cannot predict what is coming next, they will get fearful, and be triggered into flight/fight/freeze mode. Make a schedule, do regular activities at times they expect, and stick to it. Not only does this help save you brain power of thinking up how to spend time but also allows your child to rest in what is expected.

 

Self-care for Parents – You cannot give the additional care your child needs if you are not building up strength and patience in yourself, by caring for yourself. You are used to having space away from your child, so create some of that space at home. Take a break from your child every day.

  • If you are married, talk with your spouse about giving each other daily time alone, away from your children, to do activities that refresh you. You need to be intentional to balance the load and work out a schedule during this hectic time. If one parent needs to focus on homeschool during the day, the other parent should handle morning and evening routines with the child.
  • If you are a single parent, utilize “rest time” for yourself while your child does an activity they can be trusted to do alone in another space. Maybe this means is a little bit more screen time than you usually allow if that is an activity that will keep your child occupied for a little longer. Remember this time is not our normal lives and it is ok to do some things you would not normally allow if it will meet the ultimate goal of caring for yourself and your child better.
  • Identify your goals and expectations for each day, focused on your family and child. How do you survive, connect, and give grace to each other today? How will that be different tomorrow? Lower your expectations for yourself and family during this time if needed. It is ok if the laundry does not get done if it gives you some extra time to care for your soul or connect with your child.

 

Increased structure needs increased nurture – With everyone contained in the home, you may see an increase in difficult behaviors from your child. They are reacting to the change in their routine as much as you are, and we encourage you to see this as an opportunity to connect with your child. As Dr. Purvis once said, relationship based trauma needs healthy relationships to heal. Notice where your child’s behaviors push you away from them and develop strategies to overcome this in yourself. It is good if rules and structure need to increase but that must come along with increased connection in your relationship.

  • Only rules with no fun, connecting engagements between you and your child will not develop the much needed trust your child needs to follow those rules with a happy heart. If your child is resisting your rules, engage in conversation with them about your expectations and listen to their responses. You might be asking for more than they are able to give, especially if your child is developmentally delayed in any area.
  • Consider the rules you are setting for your child and what the ultimate goal is for those rules. Is it to teach your child to be a healthy, attached adult or are the rules just to get them to obey what you say? Do your rules and discipline reinforce an attached relationship with your child or do they push them away?

 

Read adoption books and resources – Instead of seeing this time as a limitation, see it as freedom. Our American lifestyles are so busy and we never have time to do the good things that allow us to grow and strengthen ourselves. Have a family reading time and pick up that adoption book you’ve always said you should read, but haven’t. We would recommend:

  • Books
    • The Connected Child by Dr. Karen Purvis
    • The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel Seigel
    • Wounded Children, Healing Homes by Jayne Schooler
    • Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray
    • Raising Adopted Children by Lois Ruskai Melina
  • Online resources from Harmony Family Center
    • This organization has provided wonderful resources for parents, children, and families. There are training resources for parents, giving you tips on how to handle challenging behaviors in your children and sensory resources for children with sensory processing disorders. They also provide activities for children and families at home. https://www.harmonyfamilycenter.org/harmony-at-home 

written by Heather Sloan

Working from Home With Kids

 

With COVID 19 being the main focus of the world right now, schools have closed in an effort to slow the spread. This will give medical professionals a fighting chance to treat the growing number of patients coming in for testing and treatment. While this is a beautiful picture of our nation’s ability to work together to help support our immune-compromised communities, it comes with added stress for parents and teachers. Many parents are suddenly needing to figure out the world of homeschooling, all while potentially working from home. The challenge then becomes keeping kids busy, happy, and learning while schools are closed.

We have found that families that are already homeschooling have been more than ready to jump in and provide support. Thanks to their extensive help (extra special thanks to my sister Bethany) we were able to create a list of educational resources to occupy and keep your kids on track while you work from, home starting with the best overall programs and options and then filtering down to subject-specific options.

Best Overall Educational Resources: There is a large number of educational companies stepping in to offer solutions during this time, this blog provides an extensive list including links. There is also a website called amazingeducationalresources.com that has a comprehensive list of options available for those who have time to review it.

Scholastic Learn At Home: Scholastic has worked hard to keep kids busy and learning while school closures keep them home. They have courses designed for all age groups and a week full of educational content already available, with more coming.

Beanstalk: For parents with kids between 1.5 years old up to 6, Beanstalk is providing free memberships for the duration of the COVID 19 threat.

TurtleDiary: This website had easy to access games on a range of topics that will help your kids learn and have fun all at once.

 

Math:

Khan Academy– Math lessons and practice starting from preschool on up. Along with other subjects available both online and with an easy to use app. This came highly recommended by teachers and is often used in schools.

Prodigy.com– Let your kids play games and collect prizes while they do math. We have it on good authority that a lot of kids consider these video games, but it may be better suited to kids over 2nd grade due to the complexities of the games, depending on your student.

 

Science and Geography:

Mystery Science: K-5 science curriculum with mini-lessons that can be used throughout the week. There are free options, and subscriptions available.

Brain Pop or Brain Pop Jr: Another extensive learning platform that you can access thanks to COVID 19.

National Geographic Kids: Explore a lot of fun topics with NatGeoKids.

YouTube: There are a lot of options on this platform. Some supervision may be recommended to ensure your kids are staying on the right channels instead of exploring YouTube as a whole. We recommend checking out Sci-show, or Sci-show kids, along with crash course and crash-course kids. These four channels were created with the specific intent of making learning fun and have extensive video libraries available immediately. FreeSchool is also a popular channel for homeschooling.

 

Language Arts:

Hoopla: If you are feeling the loss of your local library closing down, try downloading Hoopla and get access to free audiobooks, and e-books using your library card.

FunBrain for Kids: This website covers many topics, but also has a lot of books that kids can read for free.

 

Art:

YouTube– Find “how-to” videos for drawing almost anything. Lunch Doodles with Mo Williams is a popular new choice for younger kids. Older kids may prefer to search for something specific they want to learn how to draw or paint. You can also find plenty of free printable coloring pages.

 

P.E:

GoNoodle.com– this has interactive videos to get the kids moving. I also have it on good authority from my own kids that this website is great.

 

Time for a Field Trip:

Ok, you might not be able to go on an actual field trip right now, but you may be surprised what you can explore through the internet and virtual field trips.

While this is not an exhaustive list of your options, it may narrow things down and help you along as you teach and work from home. For our foster and adoptive parents, we strongly recommend scheduling your day in a simple way to help your kids adjust to this new norm. It would not be surprising for them to face higher levels of stress than children without a trauma background. Let’s face it, we’re a little stressed right now! Most importantly, have some grace on yourself during this time and on the teachers who are trying to figure out how to teach from home too. We will figure this out together, day by day.

written by Deb Uber

Meeting the Needs of Birth Moms Facing Crisis

 

A crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulty or trouble, or a time when a difficult or important decision must be made. With expectant parents facing a difficult or important decision, we can see that many, if not all of our birthmoms can experience a time of crisis. A large portion of this crisis can be amplified by the addition of grief and loss. Grief can be a form of trauma and crisis as well. Therefore, as a professional working in this field, part of our jobs is to meet the needs of expectant parents in the midst of crisis. Not only professionals, but also other people can take on a supportive role in the birthmother’s life, during the adoption process and after.

 

Family and Friends

Family and friends can be extremely helpful in supporting a birthmother during and after the adoption process:

  • Be open-minded and ready to listen
  • Help with day-to-day tasks
  • Stay connected and available
  • Respect the birthmom’s way of grieving
  • Accept mood swings

 

It is a complex role of being a friend or family member of a birthmother who is making an adoption plan. However, by showing up and being there for a birthmom, you can make a large impact of letting this birthmom know that she will not have to face this time alone.

 

Professionals Working in Adoption

As professionals, expectant parents come to you during their time of crisis for guidance and understanding. To meet the needs for expectant mothers, you can do the following:

  • Be empathetic
  • Create a safe-place for the expectant mother to express her emotions
  • Listen to her wishes and work to meet and support these needs
  • Work together to identify healthy coping skills

 

Working professionals are in the midst of a very sensitive setting for most of our expectant mothers. Many of our birthmoms come to us to learn more about the adoption process, and how we can meet their needs that others may not be able to. Because of this, we want to respect the birthmom’s space for processing, and be able to show support in any way we can.

 

 

Adoptive Family

After placement, adoptive families have a very sensitive role in a birthmom’s life. In order to meet the needs of the birthmom facing crisis, they can be supportive in these ways:

  • Respecting the agreed upon openness agreement- whether closed or open adoption
  • Write her letters of encouragement
  • Practice clear communication
  • Treat her with respect and dignity

 

After placement, there is still a tremendous amount of grief and healing that can occur for birthmoms. This phase of the adoption process is a great place for adoptive parents to be appropriately open and willing to support their birthmom during these high’s and low’s along with the adoption agency.

 

Birthmoms facing crisis is inevitable throughout the adoption process. It is a part of the decision-making and grieving process. Therefore, it is important that professionals, friends, family, and adoptive families are aware of ways to meet their birthmom’s needs during this time. Support and open-mindedness are crucial tasks of people that are in a birthmother’s life to meet her needs in the midst of crisis. Just a few of these actions can open the gates of moving forward from a crisis into a place of healing.

 

Written by Mimi Jackson.

Mimi is currently our TX office’s MSW intern. She will graduate in May of 2020 with her master’s in social work from Baylor University.

It’s 2020: Why Are We Still Afraid of Adoption Telling?

 

This blog was originally published on LavenderLuz.com.

How do I tell my child he’s adopted? And when?

Rant: I’m frustrated that these questions still come up (and surprised because my readers are adoption-savvy, so I start thinking everyone is). Who is preparing adoptive parents for adoption telling? And who should be preparing them? What can we do for the current and next generation of adoptees to help them own their story from their very beginning?

The move toward openness in adoption started in the 1980s, which means for more than 40 years we have been morphing from shame, secrecy, and walls of closed adoption => to => truth, disclosure, and doors of open adoption.

But time alone doesn’t mean all adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents have gotten the message of dealing in truth and openness. The adoption professionals who are launching these moms and dads into the world of adoptive parenting are not, as a group, doing a good enough job preparing their paying clients to parent with openness and disclosure (there are definitely some exceptions).

adoption telling from a wall to a door

Prospective parents, though, may bear the ultimate responsibility for learning about current best practices in adoptive parenting. But how can they know what they don’t know? A blind spot is, by definition, a thing you can’t see is there.

Recurring Evidence That Parents Don’t Know When & How to Disclose

A few times a month, someone will ask in a social media adoption group WHEN is the best time to tell their child they were adopted. And WHEN to disclose information about that child’s birth family. We’re not talking about an advanced course in “open adoption” — facilitating actual contact — but merely the basic disclosure that the child’s origin story has an extra element in it: adoption. That the child has first parents.

And that we can talk about it all.

Why Can’t Parents Talk About Adoption?

Time and time again, I hear this from well-meaning parents: We’re waiting until our child is ready to hear.

What I hear behind the words, though, is this: We’re waiting until we’re ready to tell.

But becoming ready doesn’t necessarily happen automatically, which creates a big problem for the whole family, not least of all the adoptive parents.

Sorites: A Paradox

Relevant here is the concept of sorites, a term I learned a few years ago from a New York Times‘ Ethicist column headlined “Should a Sibling Be Told She’s Adopted?”

‘Sorites’ (saw- RAHY-teez)’ — from the Greek for ‘‘heap’’ — is the name of a philosophical paradox. A grain of sand isn’t a heap, and adding one more grain can’t make it a heap, and as you add grains of sand, you reason that another grain can’t turn your pile into a heap. Yet at some point, a heap is what you have. In the temporal realm, there’s an analogous problem. Very often, it won’t do any harm to wait one more day to do something. So you put the deed off until, at some point, you’ve waited too long.

Sorites sins can creep up on well-intentioned people. Maybe your wife meant to tell you, when you first started dating, that she once had a fling with your brother, but the time never seemed right. There was no particular moment when she crossed the line from permissible deferral to culpable silence. A decade later, though, a spiny eel wriggles in her stomach whenever she thinks about it. She prays you never find out.

Sorites sins can rock relationships.

— Kwame Anthony Appiah, NYT Ethicist columnist in 2016

The Effect of Not Telling

Never mind the causes of why some parents can’t (or won’t) talk about adoption. They are numerous, individualized, and because they are in the past, they can’t be changed.

But the effects can be known and mitigated. And this leads to a deeper point than merely figuring out when and how to tell:

Whatever is keeping adoptive parents from telling is probably hindering their ability to parent effectively in other ways.

Because when parents are not disclosing something so big and integral to a child, they are not able to build a fully trusting relationship with him/her. Lies of commission and omission are likely to be devastating to the person they care about, once they realize that parents knew and did not/could not tell.

Not being able/willing to tell can also mean parents are having a difficult time dealing in What Is, in accepting the whole story of how the child came into the family, of the existence and validity of another set of parents — all in an effort to keep their own fears and insecurities at bay. If there is denial going on in one place, there may be denial going on in others (see the 1956 study listed in Resources, below). This compromises the ability to be truthful, which hinders the ability to build trust.

Adoption Telling is in the Best Interest of Parents!

When children sense they cannot trust their parents, they are more susceptible to looking for connections elsewhere. This can manifest in so many nightmarish ways, and as you can imagine can lead to lots of problems for the child and parents.

As I’ve said before, as the tween/teen years approach, parents are going to want to have a clear and trusting channel of communication between them and their adolescent. There really is no other true power in parenting during this stage. Grounding and withholding things can only go so far. Trust and connection are vital for making it through the turbulent tween/teen years in a trusting and connected way (adoptive parents: if you’re not already in this Facebook group, consider joining).

As one wise and experienced parent said in an online group, disclosing early and fully is “so much EASIER. No big reveal, no nervousness, no confusion, no sense of betrayal, no lies. Just the truth.”

What do you think? How should adopting parents find out best practices, and who should be tasked to make sure they do? With a focus on a solution (and not just on placing blame), please offer your ideas for progress for better adoption telling in the comments.

Relevant Resources

Thanks to TAO for those last two.

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.

Keeping Your Marriage a Priority During Your Adoption Journey

 

The adoption journey is hard—especially on a marriage. From what seems like endless stacks of paperwork, waiting for a match, the anxious feeling you may have about any unforeseen hurdles… it can be hard not to feel a strain on your relationship. And this is all happening at a time when you need each other’s support the most.
Being forward with each other and taking precise steps lets you both take positive and preventable action to preserve your marriage. If you are blessed with a child, you will need and want a strong marriage to bring that child into. We made a list of small practices to put into action, so you can keep your marriage strong through the adoption process.

1. Decide to invest in the marriage – Don’t assume a healthy marriage will automatically happen. Proactively decide that preserving your marriage is as important as (or more important) than adopting a child. Remember what brought you together, invest time, money, and energy into making it strong for when you are a parent. This priority still remains after you bring a child into your home.
2. Make a plan together – It is important that both you and your spouse are in agreement of the plan of action you will take. This includes what program to pursue, how much money is practical to spend, how long you’re both willing to wait. You must be prepared to be flexible with one another.
3. Communicate constantly –It is important to set aside time to talk to one another throughout the adoption journey. It is also equally important to listen as much as you talk. Be aware of how the other is doing.
4. Don’t use infertility, stress, or hormones as an excuse for bad behavior – This is not a free pass. Recognize the impact of stressful behavior on one another. Don’t push your spouse away because you are having a difficult time in this stage of the process. Be there to support each other; they are not the enemy.
5. Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask one another for help. And don’t be afraid to ask for outside help either! Counseling is extremely beneficial for couples facing an infertility diagnosis.
6. Keep your minds off the process – Schedule something to do every week, or at least once a month, that has nothing to do with adoption or children. Keeping yourselves busy once-in-awhile with other things will help you both to remember your relationship is not defined by adoption.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Nightlight Christian Adoptions!

 

written by Paige Zapf

6 Helpful Tips for Bonding With Your Adopted Child

 

Bonding is a critical part of building your relationship with your adopted child and is a precursor for how they will develop in the future, whether it be their physical growth, intellect, or how they form relationships with others. This is why it is important to have a strong foundation in the household when it comes to bonding and attachment. It’s common for adoptive parents to worry whether or not they will be able to form that bond with their adoptive child.

Whether you first hold your child in the delivery room, three months later, or three years later, the same tips of bonding and attachment apply. They include:

  1. Open the lines of communication: Talk to your child often. Be present and interact with him or her. Children need lots of reassurance and you both will learn about each other this way. Keep the lines of communication wide open. Toddlers and young children are full of a million questions. These questions provide a great way to connect and set the stage for meaningful conversations for years to come. And remember that it’s common for a toddler or older child to be shy when being transitioned into a new family. Don’t force a relationship. Be patient as you learn about one another.
  2. Understand that rejection is not about you: Early interactions make a lifelong impact on a child. It is important for children in hospital/foster/orphanage/institutional settings to be cared for by a familiar figure and to make a connection early on. Studies have shown that children who have benefited from a strong early bond in a safe setting will transition more easily, while children who have been exposed to poor conditions and lack a strong connection to a caregiver often exhibit trust issues later on. Most toddlers who have experienced rejection respond by becoming rejecting. For adoptive parent who feel a sense of rejection or distance, it can be a confusing and hurtful process. It’s easy for adoptive parents to blame themselves. While it may feel overwhelming on your end, try to imagine how your child may be feeling, but unable to put into words.
  3. Touch & Eye Contact: Find opportunities to have physical contact with your child. This can be holding your child in your lap, patting their leg, brushing their hair, lotion after bath time, etc. When talking to your child, make eye contact to let your child know you are fully present. But please do not force your child to make eye contact. When possible, get on their level, put your hand on their shoulder, and speak in a gentle voice. Feed your child during meal time if they will allow you to do so (even older kids benefit from being fed). Touch and eye contact will help your child feel safe and wanted.
  4. Create a routine: Children coming from foster care/institutions crave structure and routines. It helps give them a sense of control and allows them to develop trust. Having set bedtime rituals for a younger child, or a weekly family movie night for an older child are great ways to establish a connection with your child.
  5. Establish Permanency: Your child may have a fear that if they misbehave, you will no longer love them. Reiterate to your child that you still love them, even when you are in a bad mood or if they have misbehaved in some way. Send positive messages to your child to let them know that you will love them no matter what, allowing them to heal and attach.
  6. Do activities together: Teach the child how to do something you love: cooking, gardening, fishing, a favorite sport. They may end up enjoying the activity, creating a shared interest! In turn, engage in an activity that the child enjoys. This will show them that you are interested in what they like, and want to be part of their life. You may even want to consider creating a new tradition together that involves the whole family that everyone can enjoy together.

written by Hannah Tatman & Stephanie Muth

 

 

Learning the Attachment “Dance”

 

 

Attachment is the secure bond that is created initially between an infant and their caregiver. This attachment process will begin in utero with a child’s birthmother and then be formed again with other caregivers, specifically their adoptive parents. Children have the capacity to form several attachment relationships, the important thing is those are formed with adults who will remain consistently, and lovingly, in the child’s life. Even for children adopted in infancy, there is an element of loss that the child will feel when receiving new caregivers after their birthmother. In order to have healthy, intimate attachments later in life with family, friends, and spouses, an individual has to learn healthy attachment as a child.

 

This article discusses the styles, or ways, an infant attaches to a parent as well as the ways that a parent attaches to their child. Attachment is often called a dance, corresponding movements and counter-movements between both the child and parent. Both have to participate and move in order to make this a real dance. When the child is securely attached and the parent is securely attached, this dance moves as it is supposed to. Often times because of our own difficult childhoods and the experiences your child has had with caregivers in his life, one or both parties may not have the ability to attach in a healthy and secure way. Below is an outline of secure and insecure attachments and how those impact us as adults.

Attachment Styles – Children

There are four identified attachment styles in children that predict the way they attach to their caregiver. In observational experiments in children age 18 months, called The Strange Experiment, these four styles are demonstrated and can be matched with a corresponding attachment style in their caregiver. We will first examine the four styles in children to understand these attachment styles and how that impacts the child as an adult and their attachment style.

Secure

A child who is securely attached has a caregiver that consistently responds to the needs/cries of their child. This child regularly has their physical and emotional needs met and they are confident when they have a need (hungry, upset, tired, diaper change), crying will result in their needs being met.

Anxious – Avoidant

A child with anxious-avoidant attachment has a caregiver who does not respond when the infant is upset. The parent may shush their child to stop crying without meeting their needs (the reason for the crying in the first place). This child learns not to cry to get needs met and that they have to meet their needs themselves.

Anxious-Ambivalent

A child with anxious-ambivalent attachment has a caregiver who inconsistently responds when the infant is upset. This parent sometimes responds to the cries and needs of their child and other times does not. This can be for a variety of reasons, but some may be mental health issues or substance abuse in the parent. When the parent is in a good place, they respond well to their child, but they do not respond well when they are in a bad place. This child cries and is difficult to soothe in an effort to stay in the caregiver’s direct attention.

Disorganized

A child with disorganized attachment has a caregiver who is frightening/traumatic. This typically happens in situations where a child is in an abusive home. The person who is supposed to be their source of comfort when they have a need or are upset is also the person that is hurting them. The child has no clear strategy when upset and you will see very erratic behavior from them when they are upset.

Attachment Styles – Adults

It is important to understand the attachment style that we developed as children because this will directly impact our attachment relationship with our children. The duty to attach is not placed solely on a child’s attachment to you, but it is also your ability to attach to them. In studies done on attachment styles, 81% of the time a mother’s Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) classification (listed below) predicted their classification as children. This shows a direct correlation with your childhood attachment style and your corresponding adult attachment style. When looking back through generations, 75% of the time the mother’s classification predicted their grandmother’s classification. Attachment styles can be passed down from caregiver to child to caregiver to child through a generation. You usually parent your children the way your parents parented you, good or bad. If that generational line of descendants are not securely attached, then they are passing on insecure attachment relationships to their children.

Secure

A secure adult is 1) able to give care, 2) able to receive care, 3) able to negotiate their needs, and 4) able to be autonomous. These skills are developed as infants/children in healthy attachment relationships with our caregivers. For example, if our cries were appropriately attended to, then we learned that when we speak a need, a loved one will meet that need and we can trust them to do so. If we learned that our needs are not met, then as adults we will not voice our needs or trust anyone will meet them if we do.

Avoidant – Dismissing

A dismissive adult is closed off emotionally. They are able to give physical care to a child (feed, clothe, bathe, etc.) but do not connect emotionally. They can be described as not a “huggy, touchy, or feely” person, as physical affection does not come naturally. These adults put energy/interest into objects/things rather than people.

Ambivalent – Entangled

An entangled adult can be described as intrusive with care and in relationships or they get emotionally close to someone very quickly. They do not have good and healthy boundaries in their relationships and can be seen as controlling or overbearing. They may carry anger or resentment toward their own parents that is unresolved as an adult.

Unresolved – Disorganized

A disorganized adult may engage in mental “checking out” behaviors/disassociation. They commonly have behavioral or emotional disorders or another mental health diagnosis. Their personal relationships are chaotic/confusing.

 

In the general population, among adults you will find that 60% are categorized as Secure, 18% Avoidant, 12% Ambivalent, and 10% Unresolved. Interestingly, among the foster/adoptive parent population, you will find that 15% are categorized as Secure, 40% Avoidant, 15% Ambivalent, and 30% Unresolved. There is a much higher percentage of Avoidant and Unresolved adults among foster/adoptive parents. Reasons for this could be that these adults grew up in homes where their parents did not connect/attach with them emotionally (Avoidant attachment style) or were abusive/unstable (Unresolved) and their attachment style corresponds to their parents (remember, 81% have the same attachment style as their parents.) These parents want to provide a different experience for a child that has been orphaned or placed for adoption, so they are drawn to serve and love this population of children. However, without intervention, these adoptive parents will struggle in attaching with their child, especially if their child has their own attachment insecurities, and perpetuate the cycle.

Intervention

Dr. Karyn Purvis says that we cannot take a child to a place of healing if we have not gone there ourselves. Even with children adopted at infancy, impacts of stress, substance use/abuse, or traumatic experiences in utero or during delivery will leave lasting impacts on a child in development and attachment. There are great resources to read and digest in the areas of child and adult attachment and impacts of trauma on the brain to children, especially in adoption. Three authors we highly recommend are:

 

If you would like to have an evaluation done of your adult attachment style, you can get an Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) completed by a trained and licensed counselor or psychologist. One professional we recommend is Jim Harlow (http://www.jimharlowlpc.com/) but there are other counselors around Texas that can complete this evaluation. There are online inventories you can do, but the best results will be received by an in-person interview.

 

We encourage you to seek a path to healing for yourself if you grew up with a difficult childhood or relationship with either of your parents. Any impacts or wounds from your childhood will have lasting results that will be brought up in you as you become a parent. A child knows exactly how to find the right buttons to push in you, especially if your child has any struggles. The best thing you can do for your child is to seek healing for yourself. Our staff are here to support you and your path to healing. Everyone has some negative impacts from their childhood and openly admitting these will not disqualify you from adoption. We know counseling is used by the Lord to make you the best individual, spouse, and parent you can be and we encourage you to seek this as needed while you are adopting.

 

written by Heather McAnear, LBSW | Inquiry Specialist | Post Adoption Connection Center Coordinator