Adoption: Attachment and Love

Adoption with Sonya

Adoption with Sonya

A reader asks the following question:

We recently adopted a 3 1/2 year old girl. We would love to know if you have any information/literature recommendations on indiscriminate friendliness known as RAD. We are struggling with knowing how to best get our daughter to understand the concept of family and true attachment. Thank you. Julie

Building Attachment

Our first daughter that we adopted was a week from turning two when she first arrived. Aubrey was adopted through our local county social services. When we first met Aubrey she was like a bumble bee in flight. She would sit on my lap for a few seconds and then she was off again. Her life in foster care provided her with multiple care givers. She would be dropped off at daycare by her foster care parents and then if she had appointments or visits, she would be picked up by various social workers.

She had a beautiful smile, bright blue eyes, white blonde hair and a personality that was very charming. Aubrey would go up to anyone and everyone. Every woman that she would meet would become “mommy” and every man that she would meet would become “daddy.” If I turned my head for a moment in a parking lot, she would literally jump into a stranger’s van.

After several weeks of this, we realized that we needed to make some changes. Aubrey needed consistency in her life, no chaos, and an understanding of who “mommy” and “daddy” were. Since she was very small for her age, I carried her in a baby sling in the sitting position. After a few days of being held close, she never wanted to be put down. This was good because she started bonding.

To handle the indiscriminate friendliness towards others and to help in recognizing who “mommy” and “daddy” were, we kept her sheltered for the first few months. We only allowed a small handful of friends to come to the house to visit. We made sure that when they came that we did introductions immediately…

“This is Mrs. Smith. I am mommy. Can you say hello to Mrs. Smith?”

This continued until she understood who “mommy” really was. I stayed home from church for almost two months. We wanted her to understand who her new family was. It was a very overwhelming time for her. But in the end, all the hard work paid off.

Aubrey is now eleven years old and very attached.

We also noticed that Aubrey became over stimulated very easily.

As we discovered things that over stimulated her, we tried to avoid those stressors in our lives. We slowly re-introduced those stressors in a loving way, assuring her that we were there for her and every thing would be ok. It took time, but again, it paid off. Still to this day, she has issues with anxiety. We still work through this, but she is making progress with each passing day.

Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family (by David and Renee Sanford) has a great list for helping to promote healthy attachment in adopted children.

This list was given for babies, but I feel it can be used with all ages with some alterations. (Suggestions in brackets are my thoughts and additions.) Skin-to-skin time. [For the toddler on up this would be snuggle time and daily hugs.]

Minimize stress or chaos in the home.

*Provide a calm and nurturing environment for the baby. [With the toddler on up this means that you need to slow way down. Don’t be in a rush to introduce your child to everyone in the neighborhood. All of the change is very overwhelming. Give your child a few months to get used to all of the changes in their life. Don’t be in quick to throw them into every extracurricular activity out there. Bonding needs to take place in the home first.]

*Be vigilant to follow through with promises or stated intentions as you build a relationship of trust and hope. [This is so important with the older child adoption. Trust has to be built. With trust comes hope and love.]

*Incorporate soft music, soft lights, and muted sounds in the home. [This helps to provide a calm atmosphere in the home. It helps to calm stressors.]

*Minimize the number of visitors coming to the home; while everyone is excited about your new baby [or child], you need time to bond and too many adults in the child’s life makes that process confusing. [This is so true! I have seen so many adopted parents who are so excited about their new addition that they literally take them out on the town and introduce them to the whole world! You really need to slow way down. Visitors need to be kept at a minimum.]

*Keep the child at home as much as possible, to make the schedule predictable and calm. [I highly recommend home schooling the older child for at least the first two years. Bonding is so vital especially at the older ages. It is so important to build relationships and for the child to truly understand who you are in his/her life.]

*Quantity of time does matter-it is important to spend a lot of time with your new baby or child. He or she needs you to be established as the primary caretaker in his or her life. [This is so vital! The child needs to learn who mommy and daddy are in his or her life. It is very confusing for the child. It is a lot of change in a short period of time. If you are a working mommy, I really think that it is important to figure out a way to be home with your child. They need you.]

*Begin to take on the role of protector and keep your child safe. Compare this to a child who has a disease with a suppressed immune system and you are trying to guard him from infection. You can do this by keeping him safe and protected, similar to protecting the emotional health of your new child. Be diligent in your efforts and you will reap the benefits of the attachment process.

*Pray and trust God to equip you with the wisdom you need to do what is best for your particular child. [Don’t put your child in a box. Each child in your home is a beautiful unique creation of God. What works with one child might not work with the other child. God will guide you and give you the wisdom that you need for your child. Trust in Him.]

*Realize that you are building the template for future relationships that the child will have. [It is so vital that the child learn to trust in you. Your child needs to understand what a healthy family relationship is. Also realize that your child’s emotional age and physical age are more than likely different.]

I encourage you as adoptive parents to listen to the wise words of James:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5 NASB)

You will experience trials with your adopted child, just as a person would with a biological child. It is how you choose to look at those trials and how you choose to respond to those trials that will make all of the difference in the world. Parenting is a long distance endurance marathon. God will walk along side you as you walk into unknown territories. He will give you wisdom, you just simply have to ask.

Keep pursuing your child’s heart just as God continues to pursue your heart. Be consistent and persistent. Always respond in love, not out of hurt. Be the loving parents that God called you to be. His love will radiate off of you and onto your child.

Lord, help me as a parent to always be willing to pursue my children’s hearts. Give me strength to endure during the hard times. Sometimes it is so hard to hear my child say that they don’t know if they love me. Help me not to hold that near to my heart, but to know that Your love never fails. Help me to always respond in love, even during the hard times, and not to respond out of my own fears and emotions. I know that there have been times when I have pushed You away, Lord, but You were persistent and consistent in pursing my heart and not giving up on me. Help me to always see the rose among the briers. I love You, Lord. Amen.


Handbook of Thriving as an Adoptive Family
How We Love Our Kids
The Connected Child

One thought on “Adoption: Attachment and Love

  1. Sonya, this is so good!!!

    “Parenting is a long distance endurance marathon. God will walk along side you as you walk into unknown territories. He will give you wisdom, you just simply have to ask.”

    Thank you for sharing from your wisdom, experience, and love.

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