I spent last weekend with a small group of adoptive moms who are all ministry leaders; the time was deeply meaningful. Our conversations were rich, faith-filled, and honest. What a relief it was to know that we are not alone in our challenges, purposes, and joys.
One topic we wrestled with is attachment. We have all studied attachment theory and methods for facilitating its development. With some of our children, secure attachment has been achieved, while with others, it has not – all within one family. Among our children who came home at older ages, it has been more difficult to achieve.
We talked about the pressure we feel in the adoption community to go to tremendous lengths to facilitate attachment and simply make it happen. When it doesn’t, there is a sense of failure.
What would happen if we took this pressure off of our older children/teens and simply brought them into our families, loved them, prepared them for adulthood, and walked beside them as they grew? Would that be failure? Would that be unloving? I don’t think so. We provide safety, security, love, hope, and relationship – and maybe for some kids, that is all they can tolerate. Perhaps it’s enough.
One of my most popular guest posts is Joining a New Family at 16 [and Realistic Expectations]. The author, Rebecca, shared her story of living with a new family after her mother’s death.
…Recognizing the challenges, though, I argue that adoption and foster care of older children is absolutely positively worth it IF you can manage your expectations. Your expectations must be set very low. It may feel like that child is yours after only a short time. However, you may never feel like that child is yours. In the same way, children who come to you with a decade-long history somewhere else may never feel emotionally “attached” to you, either. That doesn’t rule out a relationship with an older adoptee that is just as good as any other relationship as long as you don’t impose your relationships with your other kids onto your expectations for your relationship with an older adoptee.
I’m pondering this today. I have people in my life whom I love with all my heart. I long to be with them, I would lay down my life for them; we don’t share parental attachment, but our relationships are rich.
Additionally, many people become adults without achieving secure attachment as children, but through their relationship with their spouse, and sometimes with Jesus, they achieve attachment. This is called being “Earned Secure” or Earned Adult Attachment. You can find a very simple explanation of this here as well as in the books below.
What if we are laying the foundation for our older children to become Earned Secure by pointing them to Jesus, 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.
Can we let go of our expectations, lay down our idols, and accept whatever healing happens for our children?
Question: Do you think the adoption community has placed too much weight on parents to achieve attachment, especially with older children and teens?
Ponder this with me – I would truly love to hear from you.
[Please read the follow-up to this post, “Attachment: We Serve. We Love. God Heals.“]