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.