Saturday, October 27, 2007

Attachment in Adoption

Attachment is basically the process of helping your children to realize that you're their parents. Children who are adopted internationally have often been bounced from caregiver to caregiver throughout their short lives. Even if they've been lucky enough to have a stable situation in foster care or a good orphanage, they still will have had their lives massively disrupted by the adoption and will need help feeling safely and securely bonded to their new parents. I'm hardly an expert on this subject, but it's one we've been talking a lot about in our house so I figured I would jot down some of the tips we plan to use once our kids get home.
  • Carry your kids as much as possible. Hopefully our kids will both be amenable to being carried in slings because we plan to do this a lot (as a side note, doesn't the couple in the photo above look kind of creepy?).
  • Limit visitors as first. In the first several weeks or months our kids will have a lot of changes going on in their lives. They need to attach firmly to us, the people who will be permanent fixtures in their lives, before we start introducing others that they might not see very often. We'll probably host a baptism party open-house or something similar a few months after we get home so that they can be properly welcomed into our community of friends, but at first we'll be very conscientious about who they're exposed to.
  • Parents need to be the ones meeting the kids physical needs. The books all recommend that Paul and I need to be the only ones feeding, changing, and bathing them at first. They need to be assured that they can trust us to meet their needs. It's also recommended that we feed them by hand even if they can do it themselves. For example, if we can get our toddler to let us feed him or her a bottle while cuddling it's a great way to bond. Many older babies can hold their own bottles, but we should do it for them.
  • Similarly, parents should respond immediately to night wake-ups for the first few months. Normally, parents would probably be sleep-training older babies or toddlers to self-soothe and might be allowing them to cry it out for awhile. Our newly arrived kids, however, need to be treated for the first few months like newborns when it comes to wake-ups. Again, they need to be shown that their needs are going to be met by us. We're planning to keep their beds in our bedroom at first to make this easier.
  • Spend lots of floor time with your kids. Playing and spending fun time together is really important to bonding (duh) so we'll be hanging out a lot playing peek-a-boo, building with blocks, etc.
  • Establish predictable routines and expectations right from the beginning. I think this is important for all kids, but especially for a toddler whose life hasn't been stable from the beginning.


kuriakose said...

That couple does look kind of creepy! I think maybe because the dad looks about 15yo :)
It sounds like have great ideas and plans - thanks for sharing this info; I didn't know a lot of it before.
Rooting for you guys to get your referral SOON!

Alexandra said...

Just found your blog - this is great! So glad to be able to read how the adoption is going and all the stuff that you are doing to prepare for the arrival of your kids. -Biogirl

Amy said...

Hate to say it, Betsy, but I think that girl with the sling bears a slight resemblance to you! And, I don't mean that I think you're creepy.
I listen to a couple on Catholic Radio, and they are major advocates of AP. The Popcaks. I'm sure you get it in S. Bend, but would probably have to look at the schedule online. What you wrote sounds good. You certainly want to attach with your little ones. But, one major issue I always have with AP is that I wonder whether many of the kids are properly disciplined. Sometimes, it sounds to me, like AP gives kids almost equal weight to parents. Certainly, they are worth the same. But, I mean in terms of choices, discipline etc.

Jen said...

Great post. I might come back to it.

Denise said...

Hello Betsy. We're AP parents. As a matter of fact, I just climbed over our youngest to get out of bed. She's going through another developmental growth period and has come back to our bed. Doing so strengthens her sense of security and makes this next transition a little smoother. Likewise, if either of my kids cries out in the night, we STILL go to them right away instead of letting them 'cry it out.' We had some who suggested they would never learn to take care of their own needs or fall asleep on their own. Really? My kids are the ones that even if we have company over, they'll come to me (or Ken) at their bedtime and say, 'I'm going to bed now.' and do so. IMHO, bedtimes and bedtime rituals are more important than letting them tough it out.

Yes, carry your kids! The joke was that I didn't put our oldest down for 10 weeks. Those who said that were right -- I didn't. Slings are wonderful -- they keep your son/daughter close to your warmth, the sound of your heart, and the sight of your eyes, all the while leaving your hands free. Ken still carries the younger one (now modified to the shoulders) when we're out and about.

Great blog. I appreciate what you're writing.

Denise in Texas

Ed said...


Good morning, the suggestions for raising your kids really sound like good advice. Make them feel secure and loved is the most important thing. Good luck....

LilySea said...

These are all great. I pretty much used these with our domestically adopted newborns, too. I do two more things that any parent could do, and you might want to consider:

I always wear the same perfume. It's actually not perfume, which is always too strong for me, but lavender scented toilet water from Crabtree and Evelyn. I started doing that conscientiously to give myself a distinct "mommy" smell (like a breastfeeding mother might have) that can be sprayed lightly on a blanket, for example, when I'm away and comfort the baby.

I also sing the same lullabye at every sleep time (Amazing Grace). I picked Amazing Grace because it is so culturally ubiquitous, I figured if I taught my kids to be comforted by it, it would be something they could feel comforted by throughout life, whether I'm around or not. In the meantime, Nat calms down the instant I hit the third note. Selina is starting to respond similarly.

Owen and his sister Ella said...

i love baby wearing! owen never liked it, but ella STILL loves it. if you need one, i have that same sling that has never been worn and i'd give it to you! let me know. hope to see you soon!