October 4, 2012

attachment in adoption

we have some friends that are about to bring their little girl home from russia. my friend asked me for any advice/things we've learned about attachment. so i sent her back a super long reply & decided to turn into a blog post because i figured others might be interested/benefit from it as well. :)
disclaimer: we are by no means professionals or experts at any of this. we are just taking what the Lord has led us to through books, conferences & other families we've known who have adopted. 

orphans grow up feeling like they have to fight for themselves & be independent. they're not sure who they can trust & if they can trust anyone. many orphans have been through so many caregivers during their lives that they feel like anyone who takes care of any need at all could be a new caregiver & can begin to attach to them very quickly. this is why it's SO IMPORTANT to make mommy, daddy & siblings THE ONLY ONES that care for their needs (until the attachment is strong enough, which could take years). this is also why we've decided to not let anyone else hold amos, put him in their lap, kiss him, hold his hand, etc. he needs to understand that mommy & daddy & brothers aren't going anywhere & we are his family. we don't want him to get confused by having others love on him too much (although we know that it's hard for our families to not love on him more). 
we've heard that it takes about 2 years of saying, "yes" to your child for them to trust you telling them "no". obviously we have to say, "no" & correct them, but the point was that for as much correcting as you have to do make sure you go beyond that with how much love & affection you give them. don't just correct them all day long (good to remember for our biological kids as well ;)).
make sure your little one drinks LOTS of water!! the chemicals in an orphans brain (i don't remember all the names of the chemicals)... but when the little one is dehydrated it works against their ability to be regulated & feel safe. give them food whenever they want it!!! don't worry about them overeating... they will balance out as they feel more secure. most orphans are terrified at the thought of going hungry. have food available to them whenever they want it & don't tell them "no" when it comes to food. amos ate more than jude when we first got him & now he eats quite a bit less because he's feeling more safe & knows we're not going to let him go hungry. Dr. Karyn Purivs talks about giving them water every 2 hours, food every 2 hours & a sensory activity every 2 hours. FEED YOUR BABY!! can't stress it enough!
we did co-sleeping with amos for the first 4 months.... THE best decision for attachment! the first night we had him i tried to put him in a crib, to see what he'd do, he freaked out. he slept with us & was quite restless the first couple weeks. he'd wakeup in the middle of the night just to make sure we were still there. he's now in a toddler bed in our room. he's not in a crib... he hates cribs. i think he just doesn't like being "stuck in there" (like he was in the orphanage). i lay next to his bed until he falls asleep for bed & nap. he sleeps through the night so well now.
i already talked about this at the beginning, but i think the other BIGGEST thing we did for attachment was to not let ANYONE but mike & me hold amos & take care of his physical needs. he's sooooo friendly now he will try to go to anyone that rubs his head, reads a book to him or gives him a toy. please consider this for your little one... they've had so many caregivers in her lifetime that they need to understand that mommy, daddy & siblings aren't going anywhere. you'll be the ones taking care of them for the rest of her life. eventually we'll let others hold amos & love on him, but i think it will be a few years. we want our attachment with him to be strong & we don't want to confuse him.
also... they will want to be held ALL THE TIME!!!!!! if they're little enough make sure you have a sling/carrier! be prepared to never put them down! ;) it is amazing how much they change as they feel more comfortable & attached to you. amos was so quiet when we first became a part of our family & now he's the loudest out of all of our boys. ;) the baby you first meet is not really who your baby will become. be patient with them & love them A LOT... as they feel more safe they will show you who they really are.
(embracing the camera here)
i've heard people say, "adoption is not for the faint of heart." or is it? it is so so so soooooo hard! yes, it does take a lot of extra work & it's super inconvenient (just like having babies is). you have to go out of your way to love this little one who does things sooo different than the rest of your family. you have to make sure their minds, hearts & bodies are getting what they've been so deprived of for years! but just because you are adopting... does not make you a "super hero". i've been sooooo faint of heart! i've been so weak! & this whole adoption has shown me again & again how much i need the Lord & cannot love amos well in my own strength. i need His grace to love him better. i don't do "all of the above" well. i mess up & fail. praise the Lord for His goodness & faithfulness to us as parents. He never gives up on us. so many parents think, "well i've done my job of 'rescuing them' & that should be enough". but adoption is soooooooo much more than that! it's a whole lot of work if you're going to do it well! praise the Lord for resources & His enabling strength to love these little ones well.

here are a few REALLY good resources that will help you in your attachment journey.
*how to be the village by jen hatmaker
*after the airport by jen hatmaker
*empowered to connect GO TO THIS CONFERENCE!!!!!!
*Dr. Karyn Purvis she is incredible! she has committed her life to studying children who have come from hard places & she has so much compassion for them!

(all of the above pictures are from our time in uganda. :))


Danielle Huddleston said...

So beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

justicepirate.com said...

I want to adopt one day so it was really wonderful to read about your own experiences and things that I should take note of for the future. It definitely sounds like a tough thing to do but it is what God wants . . .to defend and care for the orphan (and widow)!

christina marie said...

oh my goodness, I just read the "after the airport" article and WOW - seriously WOW ... that just shifted truth in me - way down deep. I am struck by the design of the church and God's dream of us working together as one body .... and when a family adopts (which I also hope to do in the future) ... how the church is being the CHURCH ... so beautiful. I LOVE reading about your adoption journey....and that article will stick with me for quite some time ....

tammycody said...

Just found your blog, I loved watching your gotcha video. You have a beautiful family!

Pretty lady said...

Great advice! Adoption is not an easy process but you rarely hear about the things the family has to do i norder to have a healthy child

allison barker said...


Havis said...

Such an great post. I'm an adoptive mother and I couldn't agree more!

Brittney Lynn Stasi said...

I just Love your blog! Thank you! My heart hurts so bad! I want to adopt now I don't want to wait. But we live in a house that is to small for us now. We, at the moment don't have the money to buy a bigger one.We have three kids now and are talking about #4. The Lord showed us that we will have 4 of our own and then adopt two. I don't know the order and I would like to adopt before #4.... Any way that's my lil heart bleed sorry. What all do they want from you when you adopt from Africa? I have done research but I am FAR from understanding it!

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