Adoptive Parents & Attachment
In a perfect world, every child would be wanted, valued, and nurtured to her fullest potential by devoted birth parents.
However, the opposite is our stinging reality. Many babies are born into apathetic, unstable, or abusive homes, and some experience multiple moves within the foster care system. Soon these wee ones believe their needs are not valid and nobody can be trusted to soothe and care for them. Their young brains cannot develop connections for self-calming and attachment. “The world is unsafe,” is seared into their unconscious, and they develop a survival attitude. An unhealthy protective shell grows around their tender heart to protect it from the pain of disappointed dependency on others.
Inability to attach to a caregiver affects a child’s thinking, mood, personal relations, and impulse control. She becomes the provider of her own care, and sees anyone wanting to remove her protective barrier, even adoptive parents, as a threat.
My life, like yours, is touched by generous adults who open their homes to children. A former acquaintance adopted three delightful girls, two of whom had tremendous behavior difficulties due to their early institutionalized years.
Through this parent, I’ve learned of a new diagnosis, attachment disorder (AD) or reactive attachment disorder (RAD). I learned about the symptoms, controversial treatments, support groups, and myriad feelings of the parents. “People think I’m a liar,” she told me. “My daughter is a compliant angel at school or in public, but a manipulative devil at home.”
Another couple I know adopted a silky, black-haired Asian toddler who’d been in an institution. When given a toy, she wouldn’t “palm” or take hold of it. With a closed fist, she patted the toy with the back of her hand. This was obvious evidence of her neglected care.
Because attachment issues can go unrecognized, parents may receive confusing, often conflicting, professional feedback. Some typical behaviors of kids with attachment issues include:
· Extreme control problems
· Cruelty to animals
· Obvious lying
· Poor peer relationships
· False allegations of abuse
I’m not an adoptive parent, so why am blogging on this? It’s my mission is to empower all parents through education and encouragement, so I try to alert adoptive ones to this possibility. I want to wrap my arms around parents and say, “Here’s a heads-up. It’s better to be prepared for a situation and not have it, than to have the situation and not be prepared!”
To give a discarded child a secure home where she’ll be loved and have a comfortably predictable life is, to me, one of the greatest gifts to another human and, consequently, our society.
Here’s my advice to parents who have a child with attachment issues; repeat, “This is my child with a problem behavior,” rather than, “This is my problem child.” Just as God always loves us, but not our behavior, parents can love their child and not the childishness. Also, along with seeking professional help, I encourage parents to find a support group to educate and affirm them in parenting their special, high-maintenance, often charming, child.