Being “In Hand”

From the time we arrived at Dimples’ school in January, she was “in hand”. Everywhere she went, she had to hold the hand of an adult. The purpose was for her to get to know the staff and the program, and for them to get to know her. 

The goal in the first phase of treatment is for Dimples to learn to trust the adults and believe they will meet her needs.Our children who have early histories of trauma do not believe this – deep in the core of their very being, they don’t believe that their needs will be met.

Think about how many times we respond when our babies cry; we pick them up, comfort them, feed them.  This happens over and over again. But some of our kids cried and nobody came, or somebody came and frightened or hurt them. They were hungry and there was no food. They were cold, they were sick, they were in pain —- and nobody came. They had no voice.

They came to believe that they were not people of worth, which produced a deep sense of shame. Shame – that sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

By taking Dimples “in hand” the staff is demonstrating that her needs will be met, her questions will be answered, and that adults can be trusted.  It pains me that she couldn’t learn that here, but I’m trying to let go of that and embrace this process.

Bee reminded me the other day of a time when I kept her close by my side, having her hold on to my belt loop as I worked in the kitchen. Essentially, I was keeping her “in hand”.

Likewise, for years Russ perpetually had a child in a backpack on his back, and I often had a little one in a sling or whatever the great-baby-carrier-of-the-time was.  We kept them close, we met their needs.  When they cried, we were right there to hear them.  Perhaps keeping a child “in hand” is a way to mimic that early developmental meeting of needs.

Maybe this concept will be helpful to one of you.  Have you tried anything similar with your child?

Lisa

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

17 Comments

  1. Katie Patel
    February 22, 2013

    wow…great food for thought. My 7 year old from India A.L.W.A.Y.S. wants to hold my hand. To the point of almost fighting her sisters so she can get "pole position" to have my hand when we go anywhere, or do anything outside the house. i am ashamed to admit, it gets on my last nerve, probably because she is so forceful about it, and so my hubby frequently steps in and asks "can I hold your hand?" to give me a break. But this post has given me renewed empathy as to what ELSE that behavior could mean (not all the time control, but the need to be assured I am going to be there). My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would gently remind me of this, when I am being elbowed for my hand for the 1000th time!So glad you shared this!
    Katie

    Reply
  2. tracey
    February 22, 2013

    I've heard there are some cultures that carry their children 24/7 for the 1st year. Sound like a good idea to me. Good luck and blessings.

    Reply
  3. linedancergal
    February 22, 2013

    We haven't done much of that at home, but when my autistic son was smaller he was a fantastic runner. He ran every time we let go of his hand. So I had to give up the idea of a handbag and get one of those ones that go around your waist so that I could always have one hand free to be holding Benny's. When we were out he was either carried, or holding my hand or sitting in the trolley.

    Reply
  4. Emily
    February 22, 2013

    beaming love at you all.

    Reply
  5. Shonni
    February 22, 2013

    We have and still do when we see that a child is having a hard day or they are just off.

    Reply
  6. Bramfam
    February 22, 2013

    What a great concept. SO mirrors early development. My adopted child still loves to hold my hand even now at age 8. Lisa- we think you are awesome! Hope you're feeling better!!

    Reply
  7. Karen
    February 22, 2013

    I just saw a reply to one of my posts that came in last October where the commenter took me to task for meeting my child's needs — dressing him in the doctor's office after a stressful appointment, sitting with him at the little kid's table when he felt abandoned over there (too many people to fit around the dining room table). I'm raising my child to be demanding and spoiled, apparently. I ripped her a new one. My child had needs and I was meeting them — the same as a bio mom does with an infant. When you meet your child's needs, you build the bonds of attachment — whether you are a breastfeeding bio mother or an adoptive mom of a child who suffered trauma beyond what we can imagine. So what was the harm of sitting with him at the kid's table? Now he likes to sit there with his cousins and no adults. It's fun. I was being "in hand" and it worked. I should have done way more "in hand" work our first year. I agree that it mimics that early developmental meeting of needs. I just read about attaching yourself to your child with a piece of rope. I may try that. I hope Dimples is finding the healing she needs.

    Reply
  8. oldqueen
    February 22, 2013

    I have an elastic bungie thing that has a clasp on both ends. I carry it in my purse all the time so that if I need to have one of the girls (my grand children) close to me, I get it out and we link up. They initially act like they hate it and it is some kind of torture but within about 3 minutes we are talking and doing our business together and they start to relax and feel, to a small degree, that they are safe while linked up. Their Mom keeps one in her purse also. The advantage of the elasticity of the cord is that each of us can move about while the other has the ability to play / do dishes / whatever, without interfering too much with the oter. The maximum stretch is about 8 feet so we still feel connected. I think it is an amazing tool.

    Reply
  9. Lori
    February 22, 2013

    This is a very good reminder for me. I think when our kids come to us older we forget that we need to step back into a role with them that we would do with a much younger baby/child. And, to do this longer than we may think we need to. As our eight year old son struggles with attachment, I am going to try going back to this!

    Praying for your visit with Dimples.

    Reply
  10. Karen Peck
    February 23, 2013

    My kiddo from hard places ALWAYS holds my hand. Like another commenter above, it does get on my nerves at times, but I know she NEEDS that security. She always holds my right hand (why? I don't know) and so I usually take my left hand and put it over her fingers, giving a firmer grip. I don't know if that makes sense. I started doing that with my middle child (also from hard places but not "as hard" as my youngest, if you can quantify such). She was younger and would want me to hold her. I would for a moment, until she calmed a bit, but I couldn't carry her. So, I would put her down but I would NEVER break contact with her body. I would get her ready to hold my hand, taking the other hand to help her fingers fold around the holding hand, and she would continue in the calmness. And so, I continue doing that. Like you, sometimes I have her hold my belt loop, my pocket , my jacket, the grocery cart, something so keep her connected to me. "Old queen" above talks about a cord. At an adoption talk (ETC long ago) I went to, they talked about doing this with your child when newly home, not allowing the child to be more than 36 inches away from you at all times (except for bathrooming and showering). I didn't do that, but I thought about it!

    Reply
  11. Sarah Belschner
    February 23, 2013

    You know, what hit me about this post is how our Heavenly Father keeps us "in hand". Aware of our sin and failings, and sometimes in hard circumstances, we can feel the shame you speak of and expect that He doesn't care and won't hear our cries. Yet He promises to carry His lambs in his bosom and gently lead us. He pours out His Spirit on us as a guarantee and that we might call Him "Abba". Our Father is keeping us "in hand" teaching us to trust that He will meet our every need in Christ. (Preaching to myself, here!)

    I've been reading your blog for a month or two as we're praying about adoption in our future. It's been a real blessing – thank you.

    Reply
  12. laurajonesjournal
    February 23, 2013

    Lisa, you are doing a great job. You are such a role model to me. God bless you. I am praying for you and praying for you. I have followed you for so long, every post. press on sister. So many of us adopted moms have issues with our adopted children. Lisa, God has chosen you to walk the road and journal it publicly for us, thank you. I wish i lived close enough to meet for a coffee, or bring you some flowers.

    Reply
  13. Deborah Wager West
    February 24, 2013

    we've adopted a sibling set of 4. how can we do this with all of them all of the time? I totally get it & see the need & think it would be hugely beneficial. just can't see how to pull it off.

    Reply
    1. Lisa N
      February 25, 2013

      Our family has used harness "leashes" meant to keep toddlers safely close by. This has worked for our adopted children even in their early elementary years and allows for multple children being attached to a parent. It may not be as intimate as hand holding, but it still communicates "I will keep you safe."

      Reply
  14. Sarah La Due Chaney
    February 26, 2013

    i do like the book "tomato staking". though, like all things, we digest them as individuals, so i am not an avid "BOOK RECOMMENDERRRRRR". 🙂 esentially keeping your kids within feet of you until they can successfully be farther, then farther away. thank you for the reminder.

    Reply
  15. Leslie
    March 9, 2013

    This is late, but a verse that spoke to me after my father died was this one from Psalm 10:14. "But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless." Praying for y'all.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 9, 2013

      Wow, Leslie, that is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with me.

      Reply

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