Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Attachment - Post 2 - What is it and why is it a big deal?

Attachment is a special form of emotional relationship between a child and a significant person or persons. Attachment involves mutuality, comfort, and safety for both individuals in the relationship. Bonding is any activity, action or behavior that helps establish or maintain a relationship. Attachment develops after repeated experiences of an infant having their needs met by a loving, reliable caregiver who is emotionally attuned to the infant’s needs.

With our biological children, this process began in the womb and continued as soon as they were born. They would cry. We would jump. If their diaper was wet, we would change them. If they were hungry, I would nurse them. If they cried, we would comfort and attempt to soothe them. With orphaned children, however, this process is interrupted somewhere along the line. In an orphanage, they cry but no one responds. When they were hungry, there was not always food to feed them. When they cried, their momma or daddy wasn't there to comfort them. You get the point.

Because these adopted children have not developed this trust, this security, this feeling of safety, they are affected socially, emotionally, psychologically, and biologically. When they join their new forever family, regardless of their age at adoption, a parenting style that promotes attachment and fosters lifelong bonds must be embraced. This is done by the new parents becoming the child’s primary providers, especially during the transition period.

The child must learn that when they have a need, their new mommy or daddy will meet it. When they are hurt, their new mommy or daddy will care and will help them. When they are hungry, their new mommy or daddy will give them food. When they are scared, they can trust their new mommy or daddy to keep them safe. This takes time. It takes effort.

The parent needs to meet their child’s physical and emotional needs as much as possible. Food should be associated with comfort, so parents are instructed not to stop bottle-feeding or encourage independent feeding. Instead, it is advised that they “regress” the child. If adopting a young toddler, they are encouraged to go back to bottle feeding. If adopting an older toddler, to hold the child in their lap and feed them by hand. Allowing the child to sleep in their parent’s bed, sleeping in the child’s room with them, or putting their mattress in the parent’s room, until he feels safe at night is encouraged. Carrying the child, holding hands, or baby-wearing - anything that promotes closeness and bonding - is recommended. Essentially, in every way possible, as often as possible, the new parents should meet the child’s needs so that the child will learn to trust in this new relationship.

Because many orphans have been in situations where they have had many different caregivers, they learn to indiscriminately seek care from whatever adults happen to be around. They will “shop” for a new family - smiling and seeking attention from whoever happens to be near. Because of this, it is advised that visitors are restricted during the initial transition time. Additionally, physical contact will be limited and indiscriminate friendliness will be discouraged. For the most part, hugs and kisses will need to be reserved for mommy, daddy, sister and brother at first.

We know that when this cute little boy of ours smiles and holds his arms out for Grammy or Pappy or Nannie or some visiting friend to pick him up and hold him, they will melt and want nothing more than to snatch that little cutie up and snuggle him. But, this can be damaging to the bond that we, as his parents, will be trying to develop. If Markos falls and bumps his knee, we need to be the ones to hold him and comfort him, to bandage the scrape, and kiss the boo-boo. If he is hungry or thirsty, he needs to know that we will provide for him.

This will not be forever, just until attachments are formed. Once the immediate relationships are built within our home, expanding concentric circles of relationships will extend out from our family unit. Grandparents, cousins, aunt & uncle.....close friends and other relatives....other friends and neighbors. Again, you get the idea.

We know you’ll all love Markos and want to come visit - much like when Mackenzie and Daniel were born. But, understand that this situation will be different, so please don't be offended if we politely ask you to keep your visit short, if we won't allow you to give Markos food or to pick him up or hold him when you visit. It won't be forever. Rest assured, someday in the future, I'll be asking you to babysit. :-)

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