I’ve been thinking about adoption and attachment lately – the challenges, the hard work, and the outcome.
Many of us have worked hard and achieved secure attachment with our kids. Many of us have worked hard and haven’t.
Or we’ve found the sweet spot of secure attachment with some of our adopted children and not with others.
I know a lot of adoptive families and we all want to be the best families we can be. Yes, we get tired and have days when we want to throw in the towel, parents and kids alike – especially teens.
While it’s not easy to be an adoptive parent, it’s no joy-ride being an adopted teen either, especially one adopted at an older age.
Let’s Talk About Attachment
In the ideal sequence of life, a baby is born and cared for by a loving adult. They establish a rhythm: the baby has a need and the adult meets it over and over again.
I cry and somebody comes. I’m hungry, and I’m fed. I’m cold, and I’m warmed. I’m frightened, and I’m comforted.
The baby learns her voice will be heard and she trusts her needs will be met.
This establishes a pattern of felt-safety and trust with the adult. She develops secure attachment with her primary caregiver who becomes her anchor.
When a baby’s needs are not met, or inconsistently met, secure attachment does not develop. In its place, a variety of insecure attachment styles form.
Most children from “hard places” do not come to adoptive parents with secure attachment. They come to us with trauma histories of varying degrees and a variety of attachment challenges.
Through intense therapeutic parenting, hard work in therapy, and meeting our children’s needs over and over again, we have an opportunity to heal wounds and help our child develop secure attachment.
This is a beautiful and amazing gift.
Russ and I spent hours rocking our adopted children, feeding them bits of food from our hands, giving them milk from sippy cups and bottles, developing eye contact, and meeting their needs over and over again.
What if Secure Attachment Doesn’t Develop?
As much as we all long for secure attachment, and as much as we work very hard to achieve it, sometimes it doesn’t happen.
Who’s to blame?
Should we blame ourselves? Our children?
What if we could all be free to say, “It’s not your fault. It’s not mine. The damage to attachment happened in the first year of life when neither of us had any control. We all did the best we could, and here is the really good news – there is always hope.”
Earned Adult Attachment
What if our kids can develop Earned Secure Attachment, or Earned Adult Attachment later in life?
Maybe our goal is to lay the foundation for our older children to become Earned Secure by teaching them to give and receive love, providing them with safety and security, and sharing joys and sorrows with them?
Perhaps in some cases, we’re preparing their hearts for a future of earned adult attachment — and that is all that God is asking of us.
Words From an Adopted Teen
I’m also reminded of one of my popular guest posts.
Rebecca, wrote the profound post, Joining a New Family at 16 [and Realistic Expectations] about her experiences as an adoptee. Later she wrote, There is Grace, about being an adoptive mother.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think about this – I really want to know. This topic has been rolling around in my head all week. I guess if you look back at the older posts, you can see it’s been on my mind for a few years.
Beza and I fly to New York tomorrow where we are speaking at a fundraising gala for the foundation that gave us a large grant to fund her adoption many years ago.
We’re quite excited! We speak Wednesday night, then get to sightsee in NYC all day Thursday and see Wicked that night. Friday we’re going to the ocean, then Saturday we’ll make the long trek home.
Russ is my hero for managing everything here while I’m gone while also wrapping up the semester. It’s not easy when one of us is away, but we want to say, “Yes” to this for Beza. It’s not often something this special comes along.
I plan to post on Instagram while I’m gone. Speaking of which, I posted my very first IG video on my “story” last night. I’m still not quite sure about it, but I’ll keep trying in addition to posting photos, especially during our week away.
Have a fantastic week, friends. Much love to all of you.
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