This follow-up post has been a long time coming. But over the last few weeks I’ve been able to read some great articles, excerpts from books, and have some great conversations with those much wiser then myself. One thing I have realized though is that I was trying to combat two totally different issues in my original post. Here is the ending paragraph from the original:
“So my question is as Christians how do we parent the adopted child who is showing signs of poor attachment? Many of the things listed above can be seen in any range of children and sometimes its difficult to know what behavior is just a kid being a kid and what is something so much deeper. I’ve read Christian Parenting books, and Adoptive Parenting books and can’t find much middle ground between the two. So how is it that we teach adopted children the Biblical concepts of authority, discipline, obeying right away, telling the truth, showing kindness and so forth. Is it possible to simply say, “Sin is sin,” with no regard to past experiences? How would you Biblically counsel an adult who wasn’t trusting, had a core sense of being bad, a fear of intimacy, overwhelming feelings of shame? Obviously by pointing them to Christ, but what if these issues were resulting in, stealing, immoral behavior, self-sufficiency, vanity? As adopted children of God how have we been dealt with and what is expected? Does this translate into how we parent adopted children? I’d love the thoughts of adoptive parents and non-adoptive parents alike.”
The two separate issues are 1. Attachment in adopted children and 2. The instruction and parenting techniques for adopted children. My original questions surrounded how to use Biblical parenting techniques WHEN you have an unattached adopted child, and that’s where it got a little confusing. So today’s post is centering on what I’ve learned about the 1st issue at hand – how to form a secure attachment in adopted children.
Originally I had considered attachment focused parenting to be over-permissive and too child-focused. I was concerned that if we followed the advice of popular professionals in this area, we would end up with strong-willed, indulged children, who always got their own way. And I was selfishly concerned about being respected, obeyed, listened to, and generally having obedient children who always did what was right. Does anyone out there have kids like that???
I was fortunate to have an excellent conversation with a mom to 14 children, 5 bio, 9 adopted. She provided some excellent insight into attachment parenting for older children. Many books will discuss regression techniques for the older child. Allowing them to go back to infant and toddler emotional stages and nurturing. Things she mentioned as helpful were: holding and rocking a child, providing all their needs such as making their meals, putting on their clothes, helping bathe them, co-sleeping. Other helpful advice included keeping them with you all the time and always in eyesight. We have found both F an T responsive to these techniques. One thing I loved that she said was in the beginning its all about relationship over behavior; that as an adoptive parent your goal should be to meet the need rather then end the need. That was a seriously helpful prospective to have when your as selfish as I can tend to be. I’d rather end the need for drawn out bed times, slower transitions, end the perpetual questioning, end the toddler like temper-tantrums. What I’ve come to realize though is that each time I lay down beside the kids for 10 minutes at night and talk about whatever, or answer each redundant question with patience and kindness, give them 5 minute warnings for transitions, and comfort them when they’re upset, they see that I’m hear, and listening, trustworthy, and kind. And actually, within the last 2 weeks we’ve seen tremendous changes in both children.
Another important thing I’ve come to realize is the fact that attachment is just going to take some time. I think its easy to worry in the first 2 months and think that it isn’t happening yet, and what does this mean??? But when you think about normal adult relationships, when you meet someone for the first time, it certainly takes longer then 2 months to feel securely attached to that new person. So as far as attachment goes, it is good to remember that time and truth are on our side. And that what you read in attachment books really is helpful. A secure attachment is going to come through the child seeing that their needs are consistently being met by their new parents, and that they are in a safe home.
Recently F and T have been asking if they will have to go back to Ethiopia. I think they’re at a point where in their minds they want to trust us, and are starting to see what our family is all about, but before they can love us completely they want assurance that this isn’t just another stop on the way to somewhere else. We’ve seen that they need this reassurance especially after encounters with Ethiopian people. We live in an area with a large population of Ethiopians. There are many Ethiopian restaurants, we’ve met people working at CVS and our local grocery store, and there are a few families in our neighborhood. All these wonderful people have known that our kids are Ethiopian just by looking at them and will start to speak in Amharic to the kids. For some reason this always seems to frighten Fikadu especially, and he needs the reassurance that he will be staying here in our family. Tigist needs the reassurance more after she has done something wrong. And that is what I want to talk about in my next post: Parenting techniques to use with unattached adopted children. So although this is certainly not the most thorough or best article on attachment, my original questions surrounded more the parenting, instructing, and disciplining of unattached adopted children, and you can check back soon for my thoughts and discoveries in that area.