Category Archives: Attachment

Feel the Love: How to Bond with Your Adopted Child

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The best things in life are unseen, that’s why we close our eyes during a kiss, a laugh and a dream and bonding is no exception- you can’t see it, but you can feel it. Bonding with your child is important and becomes almost critical if the child was adopted. Although we know adoption isn’t a birth mothers rejection, oftentime’s to adoptee’s it can feel that way. Is it important to reassure your child that they can depend on you and are safe and loved. Bonding is a process that cannot be rushed. A deep meaningful relationship can only develop through shared experiences, trust, and time. It’s essential for children to feel accepted, cherished, and loved in the purest form- unconditional and true. Remember, a family isn’t made from blood, it’s made from love.

“A family isn’t made from blood, it’s made from love.”

The Science Behind Bonding

Attachment is a strong, affectionate bond we have with special people in our lives that lead us to experience pleasure when we interact with them. We often feel comforted by those we have an attachment to in the times of stress. The beginning stages of bonding starts earlier and simpler than many think. According to famous Psychologist Bowlby, babies are born equipped with behaviors like crying, babbling and smiling to ensure adult attention and adults are actually biologically programmed to respond to infant signals. When a parent performs small steps such as holding their children close, singing sweetly to them, comforting them and rocking them softly to sleep, their child knows that their parent is dependable which creates a secure base for the child to begin exploring the world and feel loved while doing so. These things along with keeping a calm voice, skin-to-skin contact, and carrying your child are the beginning steps to making your adoptive baby feel safe, secure, loved and cherished beyond belief.

Vera Falhberg, pediatrician and specialist in the field of adoption attachments, categorizes the following as long-term effects from positive attachment:

  • Helps a child to sort out perceptions of the world in which he lives
  • Encourages the development of logical thinking
  • Develops social emotions in a child
  • Cultivates the formation of a conscience
  • Helps an individual cope with stress, frustration, worries, and fears
  • Fashions an appropriate balance between dependence and independence
  • Sets the stage for the unfolding of healthy future relationshipsUntitled design

The Importance of Comfort

Making sure your child has comfort is a nurturing, everyday desire all parents have. Comfort increases productivity and boosts self-esteem in children and who doesn’t want that? Contact-Comfort takes it a step further and examines the relationship between physical and emotional comfort with love and security. For example, we’ve all seen the reaction that a crying baby can have due to being picked up by its mother; the child relaxes and stops crying. This is believed to be a result of its first feeling of safety and security derived from this close contact. A famous experiment that is a true testimony of the importance of comfort was conducted by Harry Harlow in 1959. The experiment focused around baby monkeys that were separated from their birth mothers and reared to two mother-like figures; one terry cloth covered doll and one wire meshed doll. The babies held on tightly to the terry cloth covered dolls for security and comfort despite the fact that the wire meshed doll had a bottle attached to it. This experiment demonstrated the importance of a warm and comfortable environment to help a child thrive rather than a cold, uncomforting one.

Building Comfort for your Child

We suggest having an age-appropriate crib or bed, warm sheets and blankets, a few pieces of child size furniture and some toys they might enjoy. You may feel the need to over-indulge with bold prints and glitter, but decorating with too many bright colors may be too overwhelming. Decorating with soft, warm colors will put your child at ease and displaying few attractive toys that are soft and fuzzy will calm your child and help them feel right at home. Another tip we suggest is carrying you child in the front of your body, closest to your heart. The Moby wrap can help you keep your child close and aid in bonding while also freeing your hands.

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Ready, Set, Bond!

True bonding is not measured by time spent together or the favors done for each other but by the comfort you find when you realize you have each other. Now that you have some background knowledge on the importance of bonding, let’s put our theories and science to work. Here are some tips we offer to help promote a healthy bond between you and your child.

Be Sensitive and Empathetic

Empathy is all about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with someone else’s heart, and seeing through someone else eyes. Be sensitive to the needs of your child and handle with care and compassion. If your infant is crying, take time to rock them gently and sing to them softly.

Sit and Play

Playfulness decreases any feelings of threat and harm. Sit alongside your child and follow their lead. Find activities that will interest your child and stimulate them emotionally and intellectually. “I see you” is a great game to play that promotes eye contact and helps the child become familiar with your facial features and laugh.

Be Predictable

Keeping rituals and routines help let the child let him know what’s expected of them as well as what they can expect from you. Try to keep feeding times the same; the earlier your child realizes that when they’re hungry you will feed them the better it is for all. As soon as your baby shows signs of hunger, sit in a cozy spot with a drink of water, a nursing pillow and soft music playing. If your baby is easily distracted when feeding, you might try going in a quiet room with the lights low, says Jim Sears, M.D., author of The Baby Book.

Skin-to-Skin Connection

Child or infant massages are a way for you to gently nurture and spend time with your baby. They promote parent – to child interact and are often soothing and calming to your child.

Relax and Enjoy It!

Bonding is not like instant glue which suddenly and irrevocable cements the parent-child relationship together forever. Bonding is a life-long process of parent-child interaction. Take a deep breath and enjoy bonding with you child; not only will this make you feel better, but also help your child relax.

What are some rituals your family does to promote healthy relationships?

 

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Adoptive Parents: Experiencing the Adoption Journey with Support

Support helps to build a strong foundation in every relationship, including those surrounding adoption. We will be focusing on the importance of support for prospective adoptive parents during each stage of the adoption journey. The Child Welfare Information Gateway created a very informative fact sheet that will be referenced through this post, if you wish to read it in its entirety, you can find it here.

Adoptive Parent Support

Before Starting the Adoption Journey

The decision to adopt is emotionally charged and there are lots of factors that need to be considered and addressed by the prospective adoptive parent(s).

Questions to Consider (from Child Welfare Information Gateway)

  • How will a new child fit into your life and relationship?
  • How will a new child affect family dynamics—especially if your family already has children?
  • What changes are you willing to make to ease the child’s transition?
  • How do you feel about open adoption—contact with the child’s birth family?
  • How do you feel about welcoming a child from foster care or an institution who may have experienced abuse or neglect?
  • How have you addressed your own past trauma or losses? Have you considered how adopting a child with a similar history might affect you emotionally?
  • Is there anything in a child’s history that you feel you would not be equipped to cope with, emotionally or financially (e.g., past trauma, sexual abuse, fragile medical condition)?
  • Are there any behaviors that a child could manifest that would make it too hard to maintain him or her in your family?
  • In cases of transracial or transcultural adoption, how do you feel about accommodating, helping, and promoting your child’s positive cultural and racial identity?
  • How will you inform family members and friends, and how will you deal with questions from family, friends, and strangers about adoption?
  • How will you answer your child’s questions about adoption, his or her background and history, birth family, and your reasons for adopting?
  • What are your dreams, fantasies, and expectations for your child and family’s future? How do you typically respond when reality does not match your expectations?
  • How willing are you to learn new parenting strategies that work better for children who have experienced loss and trauma?
  • How willing and able are you to seek help for yourself or your child when necessary?

During the Adoption Process

The life changing decisions that are made during the adoption process are exciting and also stressful. The home study process can feel invasive and might bring up emotional issues that have not fully been explored as a couple or individually. There are long wait periods that you might experience and uncertainty that comes along with that, so it is not uncommon for it to become difficult to go about your routines and to feel anxious.

Waiting Support

One survey showed that the majority of adoptive families identified some ongoing issues that made daily life challenging—including emotional, behavioral, and school concerns (Stevens, 2011).

A good agency and social worker will be there by your side throughout the adoption process to help manage stress, worries and to provide insight in the decision making and learning processes along the way. So, one place to start is with your adoption agency. Many agencies offer some kind of post adoption support and services. Adoptions from the Heart offers extensive support for all members of the adoption community as well as support groups for adoptive and birth parents.

Other services that adoptive families have found beneficial include the following as outlined by CWIG:

  • Support groups, whether online or in person, provide parents an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations, vent their feelings in a safe environment, receive supportive feedback, and learn new strategies from more experienced adoptive parents.
  • Adoption-competent counselors or therapists can provide targeted therapeutic services to children, parents, and the family as a whole to address adoption-related issues.
  • Adoption subsidies are available for some families who adopt from the child welfare system to help with the costs of caring for children with special needs.
  • Educational advocates help parents of children with special needs to understand their child’s educational rights and to work effectively with the school system to identify and access accommodations, programs, and services to help their child succeed

You can find more support groups in your area here: http://www.americaadopts.com/adoptive-parent-support-groups/

After Placement

Many think that completing their adoption placement means that the most difficult and trying time is behind them, but settling into parenthood or the “post adoption period” can mean a different set of obstacles for parents. Here is what the Child Welfare Information Gateway had to say about some of the issues that arise for adoptive parents post placement:

Parents may have difficulty attaching to the new child and may question their parenting capabilities. They also may be hesitant to admit that there are any problems after a long-awaited adoption.

In some cases, these feelings resolve on their own as parents adjust to their new life. If these feelings last for more than a few weeks or interfere with your ability to parent, peer support or professional help (with a therapist skilled in adoption issues) may help you to address the issues causing the depression and assume your parenting role with greater confidence.

If you have adopted from foster care, you may have had visits with the child, or the child may have actually lived with you before the adoption. Even so, the finalization creates a permanent family situation, and you and your child may take some time to develop a bond and evolve into your new identities, just as a couple adjusts to marriage after dating for a long time.

If you have adopted an infant, received a child in an emergency placement, or adopted through an inter country adoption, the suddenness of the child’s arrival may leave little time for becoming accustomed to your new identity.

 

Strategies for Adjustment

There are a lot of different things that can be down to help a family adjust after an adoption. Whether you need the support right after placement, or years down the road, it is important to address identity and adoption issues throughout the life of your adopted child. Some things you can do include:

  • Establish family traditions or rituals
  • Create a family story
  • Connect with your child’s birth culture
  • Prepare to respond to outsiders including relatives, friends and strangers about the adoption

Perhaps the most important thing is to connect with parents who have completed a similar adoption. Learning firsthand how other parents have made the adjustment and have dealt with challenges can be reassuring. More experienced adoptive parents can serve as role models to newer parents as well. Parent support groups, like the ones explained above, are meant for just that—supporting and lending a hand and an understanding ear to parents who need it. Reach out to your adoption social worker or agency for the contact information of other adoptive parents who would be willing to help you through your journey. The adoption community is tight knit and surrounded by love, there are resources available and people who want to support and see you succeed in parenthood!

 

Older Child Adoption Guide: Adopting an Older Child & Parenting your Adopted Child as They Grow

Older Child Adoption Guide

Adopting a Pre-School or School-Aged Child

There are special challenges present when adopting a pre-school aged child. Deborah Gray, author of Attaching in Adoption and Nurturing Adoptions presents ten tips for the first year of placement that we suggest adoptive parents take time to read and discuss with family members. Here is an excerpt of her article, Top Ten Tips for the First Year of Placement.

  1. Spend ample time in nurturing activities.

    The most significant process of the first year home is creating a trust relationship. Intentional and ample nurturing promotes this goal. Restrict your hours away from the little one. Do not leave your child for overnight trips for this first year.
    Meet your little ones needs in an especially sensitive manner. Feed on demand. Respond quickly to fussing. Allow the toddler or child to regress, bottle-feeding, rocking to sleep, lapsitting, and being carried. Play little games that promote eye contact, like peekaboo, ponyride, and hide-and-seek.

  2. Teach children to play with you.

    Many little ones have missed the joys of play. Act as an amplifier, teaching toddlers and children the pleasure of play. Most children have missed the experience of having parents express joy as they played. Because of this, their reward centers were not stimulated. This restricted the association of exploration and play with pleasure. Set aside at least thirty minutes a day for play with your children.

  3. Talk to your child.

    Talking with KidsParents of infants use exaggerated voice tones to emphasize important concepts. Their “amplifier system” helps children with attention to most important parts of the whole environment. After children move into the preschool age, some of this “cheerleader” amplification diminishes. Continue to use this brighter emotional tone with your child as she understands your shared world even if she is not an infant.
    Explain things to him, even though you might think that the meaning of what you are doing is obvious. Not only are you conveying information to him, you are revealing your view of the world to him. Your voice tones guide him to better understand the context. Be sure to use your fingers and gestures to point out important things to him. This helps him to both attend to and understand the meaning of the context around him.

  4. When toddlers or older children have behavior problems, use your body to stop them.

    Be gentle, but be consistently and predictably competent in stopping negative behaviors. Gently move their bodies to where you want them to be. For example, if your little one is reaching for an item, move the child or the item. Use the voice for a back up. Do not remind or repeat several times. Instead, describe in a pleasant manner how precious or pretty the item appears to you as you move your child. Teach boundaries of respect from the beginning.

  5. Get enough sleep, good food, and exercise to stay in a good mood.

    Little ones who have been moved and/or neglected tend to be irritable, fussy, and hard to soothe. Parents use their own positive, well-regulated moods to help calm and engage these little ones. Your own emotional stability will help to steady your child’s moods. A depressed parent struggles to form a positive, secure attachment with her baby or child. Depression makes the parent emotionally less available. The parent who is tired, eating junk food, and inert by day’s end does not give a child a competent source of emotional regulation. Parents who find that their moods are slipping, even with good self-care, should see about counseling and/or an antidepressant. It is simply too hard to do this essential, nurturing parenting while being depressed.

  6. Be part of an adoption support group.

    The relationships between families are invaluable. The relationships can be emotional lifelines on hard days. If possible, find a mentor who is positive, and who likes you and your child. Ask her to be part of your circle of support. We all need to feel understood and authentically accepted. A mentor who can provide that sense of nurture for the parent helps the parent to be a good nurturer. The mentor relationship provides a sense of being heard and accepted, and tips and information. Parents are working harder emotionally when parenting a baby or child who has lived through uneven parenting. Parents need someone who cares for them. Sometimes this can be mutual support, and sometimes one-to-one.

  7. Keep a calm, but interesting home.

    Match the amount of stimulation in the home to the amount that is within the childs ability to tolerate. Many children have been massively understimulated before they came to parents. Neglect massively understimulates children. They do not build neurology to process as much sensory stimulation. After adoption, their worlds can suddenly be overwhelming. Things are too bright, too loud, move too much, and tilt too much. Slow things down, buffering your baby or child to the extent that they can process the information coming their way. Often children who are overwhelmed by noise will begin shouting, or those overstimulated by too much movement will begin running with arms like windmills. Lay out predictable, consistent events for the day. Some children find the movement of the car to be disorienting. If your child is having difficulties, try a couple of days limiting the car, determining whether or not this makes a difference.

  8. Explain to children basics of your relationships as they gain language.

    For example, “A mothers job is to love you. I will always come back home to you when I leave in the car to go shopping. You will live with me until you are as big as I am. I will not let anybody hurt you. I will never hurt you. We will always have enough food.” One mother told me of her sons relief and better behavior when she told him that she would never allow others to hurt him. “Why didn’t I think to tell him the first year?” She questioned. “He was afraid every time we went to the mall. He has been thinking for two years that just anyone could haul off and hit him.” Another parent told me of the melting smile that her daughter gave her when she said that a mothers job was to love her child. “I just assumed that she knew that. But she didn’t. She looked at my face much more after that.”

  9. Do watch for signs of an exclusive attachment by the end of the first year.

    Children should be seeking out their parents for affection and play. They should be showing off for positive attention. They should prefer being with the parent. They should show some excitement about time together. When hurt or distressed, the child should seek out the parent. In a secure attachment, the child will calm with the parent and accept soothing.
    Trauma and traumatic grief are the common culprits when children are remaining wary, fearful, and controlling of their parents. Signs of trauma with younger children include regular night terrors, dissociation (child shuts off emotionally and stares away), scratching, biting, extreme moods, freezing in place, and destructiveness. Parents who see these symptoms should be finding a mental health counselor to help their child. If the child is under the age of three, the parent is given special parenting advice. Usually therapy with an experienced child therapist can begin not long after the age of three.

  10. Enter your little ones spacepositively.

    This often means getting low and looking up for eye contact. It means trying hard and trying patiently for a longer time. You are the one who has the responsibility of engaging your child positively. Do not use punitive techniques to try to build relationships. After all, no one wants to attach to a mean person. Instead, be strong, dependable, available, and kind. Veer away from advice that is strong, controlling, and mean in tone. Sensitive and kind parents gradually build empathy and security in their relationships with their children. That process takes time and the type of parenting that caused you to want to be a parent in the first place!

To read a more complete version of her article which is extremely helpful for parent’s in this situation, you can find it here. We also wrote another blog post about making a smooth transition when adopting an older child which is a great resource, you can find that here.

Parenting Your Adopted Child as They Grow-Up

Talking About Adoption

As a parent you will share information in an appropriate way for your child’s age and abilities. You have the responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of your child including what to share and when and how to share the information. It is a parent’s job to help the child make sense of the information and that can be done by explaining things in a positive way and answering any questions your child has.

Telling the Story during the Preschool Years

Adoptive Mother and Daughter

Our friends at Adoptive Families wrote a great piece about Telling the Tough Stuff  to your adoptive child. They explain that there are two keys to sharing adoption information with preschool aged children.

  1. Tell the child’s story as a story, not as cut and dry facts. Make sure your child understands that the story you are telling is true and not a fairytale.
  2. Tell no lies. You don’t want to risk confusing your child so make sure your story is truthful. At this age you also want to limit the amount of negative details you share.

Elementary –age Kids

As your young ones grow, they make a cognitive leap around seven to nine years of age. They are able to understand the concepts you described when they were younger and will likely have more questions about their adoption story. Kids are highly resilient at this age and it is often considered the ideal age for sharing tough realities.

Adolescence

This is the time to continue to fill in details. Just like with nearly every teenager, parents should be prepared for some rough patches as your child struggles to figure out who he is. If the adoption conversation has been open and honest from the beginning, it is likely to remain so and only expand as your child becomes a teenager. Talking to teens can be a difficult task and we wrote a blog post not too long ago on how to best approach the conversation, you can find post here.

Additional Resources

https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/talking-to-your-adopted-child/

The Effects of Attachment and Developmental Trauma and Ways to Heal the Adoptee

The Effects of Attachment and

With National Attachment Trauma Awareness Day approaching on June 19th, we thought it would be beneficial to write about the effects of an attachment disorder on an adopted child. Did you know that one out of fifty infants nationwide suffer abuse and/or neglect annually? Often these children are so hurt that it takes more than typical parenting to heal their wounds. Without the proper knowledge of what attachment and developmental trauma actually is, these children could go their whole lives with this unresolved suffering that can continue to increase exponentially with each generation.  With some understanding of attachment theory, the adoptive or pre-adoptive parent can help their child avoid getting an inappropriate label and/or the wrong type of treatment, which can in fact be harmful.

History of the Attachment & Trauma Network

The Attachment and Trauma Network (ATN) is the nation’s oldest parent-led organization that supports families of traumatized children.  This network was actually formed by three mothers who were all adoptive parents that were struggling to raise their children that had attachment disorders.  The ATN has grown internationally in the past 20 years.  The organization provides trainings at regional and national adoption conferences, operates online support groups, maintains database of worldwide therapists and is the premiere network for all families raising traumatized and attachment disordered children. Their mission is to promote healing of families through support, education and advocacy.

To shine light on the millions of children who are diagnosed with this disorder every year, the ATN along with supporters and partners designated June 19th as the second annual National Attachment Trauma Awareness Day.  A few highlights that occur on this special day are as followed.

  • Volunteers will host screenings of award winning films that show the impact of early trauma on children.
  • Volunteers will spread the word through social media with the hash tag, “#NATADAY2015”
  • Volunteers can send a personal letter to an elected official, pastor, school principal or other civic leader to advocate for this cause.
  • They will wear blue ribbons or string around their fingers to symbolize the ties of love and importance of building attachment to help traumatized children become more resilient.

NATA-Logo-header

RAD vs. Attachment Theory

Attachment between a parent and his or her child is the bond formed between them, and the foundation of all future development. If you are the parent of a child with an attachment disorder, you may be exhausted from trying to connect with your child. A child with insecure attachment or an attachment disorder lacks the skills for building meaningful relationships.

RAD

Attachment disorders come in degrees of severity, with the most severe being Reactive Attachment Disorder. Very few children, even those with RAD, have all of the symptoms. Since a number of the major psychiatric disorders have overlapping symptoms, you should take your child to a psychiatrist to get the full diagnosis, The Mayo Clinic best describes RAD as “A rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don’t establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers. A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused or orphaned. RAD develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met, and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurtling the ability to establish future relationships.”

Attachment Theory

Attachment Theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners. John Bolby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” The most important tenet of attachment theory is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for the child’s successful social and emotional development, and in particular for learning how to effectively regulate their feelings.

Signs of Attachment Issues in an Adoptee

Signs of Attachment Issues in an Adoptee

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Doesn’t smile
  • Doesn’t reach out to be picked up
  • Rejects your efforts to calm, soothe, and connect
  • Doesn’t seem to notice or care when you leave them alone
  • Cries inconsolably
  • Doesn’t coo or make sounds
  • Doesn’t follow you with his or her eyes
  • Isn’t interested in playing interactive games or playing with toys
  • Spend a lot of time rocking or comforting themselves
  • An aversion to touch and physical affection
  • Anger problems
  • Difficulty showing genuine care and affection
  • An underdeveloped conscience

This is a great chart created by an adoption training coordinator that outlines overlapping behavioral characteristics of an adoptee.

Therapy for Parenting a Child with a Attachment Disorder

Therapy for Parenting a Child with a

Parenting a child with insecure attachment or reactive attachment disorder can be exhausting and emotionally draining. With concerned effort, time and patience with your child, attachment disorders can be repaired. The key is to remain calm, yet firm as you interact with your child. This will teach your child that he or she is safe and can trust you. The most important thing you can do for your child is show them unconditional LOVE.

There are studies that do show specific healing treatments that will help your child get through the attachment disorder. Below are just a 6 different “needs that you will need to full fill for your child.

  1. They need to know that you are in control of your own feelings and will not, under any circumstances, attack them in any way
  2. They need to know that you are going to keep them safe in the world
  3. They need help managing their anger
  4. They need the opportunity to “tell you” about what happened to them.
  5. They need your reassurance that their body won’t be violated
  6. They need your reassurance that you will not abandon them, no matter what.

Treatment for reactive attachment disorder usually involves a combination of therapy, counseling, and parenting education. While there might be medication to treat depression and anxiety, there is no quick fix for treating attachment disorders like explained in the beginning of this bog. We have found in the research done that there are specific treatment plans that could help your child. See below for our top 5 plans that we believe are the best therapy for your adopted child.

  • Family therapy: Therapy often involves fun and rewarding activities that enhance the attachment bond as well as helping parents and other children in the family understand the symptoms of the disorder and effective interventions.
  • Individual psychological counseling: Therapists may also meet with the child individually or while the parents observe. This is designed to help your child directly with monitoring emotions and behavior.
  • Play therapy: Helps your child learn appropriate skills for interacting with peers and handling other social situations.
  • Special education services: Specifically designed programs within your child’s school can help him or her learn skills required for academic and social success, while addressing behavioral and emotional difficulties.
  • Canine Therapy: Canines are sometimes used as service animals for medical and emotional purposes but they also serve as therapy for adopted adolescents that have an attachment disorder.

Recommended Next Steps to Parenting an Adoptee with an Attachment Disorder

As many as 1.5 million children are diagnosed with an attachment disorder or development trauma each year and it is important to remember that early trauma can lead to a spectrum of conditions with unfortunate consequences for not only the adopted child but the families and society as a whole. Without the proper therapy and support of loved ones, the unresolved trauma of the adoptee can not only affect their emotional well being the rest of their lives but there is a huge physical effect as well. We mentioned in the above excerpts the therapy that we would suggest for your adoptee but there are other ways to help you through what might seem like the most difficult time of your life with your adopted child. Please take a look at this compiled list of attachment and trauma specialist throughout the country.

Newborn Bonding

The first month of a baby’s life is all about meeting their physical needs. Whether they need to be held, fed, or comforted to sleep — it is important for parents to meet those needs. By the second month, a baby begins to seek their mother’s or father’s presence through smell and touch, the same way that they may seek food, a dry diaper, or a nap. The parent-child relationship is a way through which a child’s framework for understanding interpersonal relationships evolves.

Adoptive ParentsHere are some tips to help facilitate bond for adopting children of different ages:

Adopting a Child from Birth to Five Months
Your most important task is to boost bonding by keeping your baby close to you and responding to their needs. Infants can sometimes avoid eye contact, become fussy on a whim, refuse to take a bottle, sleep excessively or not at all. Just remember that this has nothing to do with your parenting ability or whether or not you have birth to this child, try and relax and give your baby and yourself some time to familiarize.
• Appeal to their senses: Maybe don’t wash the outfit your baby come home in right away, keep it near them in the crib because newborns are sensitive to smell and that familiar aroma could be comforting.
• Provide primary care: Help your baby identify you with comfort by providing all of their care (diaper changes, feeding, soothing to sleep, etc.). Tell your friends and family that for at least the first couple weeks, you want to be the only ones to do those tasks.
• Always be there: A good rule of thumb to follow for the first few months would be that no matter what your child’s age at adoption, respond to their cries or calls verbally or physically whenever possible within fifteen seconds. Don’t feel like you have to dash through the house to their side, check the clock, 15 seconds is actually probably longer than you may think. At the beginning, to help bolster bonding, it is important for your child to know that you are there for them, to provide for their needs, and to offer comfort.
• Snuggle up: Your little one won’t be spoiled by too much holding, rocking, or cuddling. Enjoy some skin on skin contact after a bath and even try a front carrier for your baby so they can hear your heartbeat.

Adopting a Child from Five to Ten Months
When adopting a 5-10 month old, they may have already developed a separation anxiety by the time of the adoption and could act sad or fearful. The natural fear of strangers that comes with this stage of a baby’s life is magnified.
• Go back to basics: Even if there is some resistance, try holding your baby in a nursing position, maybe when giving a bottle or before bedtime. The goal of this action is to reinforce the eye contact and relaxation that is usually achieved in earlier months of nurturing.
• Allow your baby to grieve: It might be difficult for you, but stay with your baby when they are grieving and crying — even if they won’t accept consolation.
• Maintain your baby’s routines: Now really isn’t the time to change feeding or nap times, the routine will reassure your baby.
• Keep it playful: Play games like peek-a-boo, smile, and sing songs to help your baby associate those positive feelings with you.

Adopting a Child from Nine to Eighteen Months
A child adopted at this age needs to transfer the trust they developed with previous caregivers to their new family. If you are able, observe your baby with their pre-adoption caregivers, see if they move away to play and return for reassurance or move away without checking back, meaning they may have concluded that there’s no one to watch over them.
• Revisit earlier stages of development: Offer comfort, even if they don’t seek it. Your child may not have developed a strong sense of security or attachment during earlier stages of their life, so they may want to stay near you and explore.
• Teach your child to check in with you: You want to make sure your child knows you are a source of their safety, have them check in with you. Have them check in with you before playing with toys or leaving the room to play in another room, and express joy in their accomplishments.

Adopting a Child from Fifteen to Twenty-Two Months
Moving a child in the toddler stage is difficult because they have already built attachment to a caregiver. Their greatest fear of losing that person has come true and they are not developed enough to understand adoption.
• Prepare your child: Visit your child in the presence of their caregiver before placement and together talk about the move. If a pre-adoption visit isn’t possible, send your child an album of family photos or a voice recording so they will be familiar by your first meeting.
• Help your child identify feelings: Your child’s verbal abilities aren’t developed enough to really express their feelings about this life change, so help him label emotions such as sadness, anger and fear.
• Record the circumstances: Write down everything about placement day in detail and take photos. Details will help them understand what happened and why.
• Get good advice: Sometimes children adopted as toddlers struggle with balancing dependence and autonomy, seeking professional advice may be helpful.

The blessing that your child brings will out weigh any obstacles you may face. Just as all new parents discover, some days are just harder than others. The most important thing is to reassure your child that you love them and you are there for all their needs. Keep in mind some of these techniques when bonding after placement and share any of your tips with us so we can spread the love!

December 2013 Book Reviews

DreamBigReadAll books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.


Attachment in Common Sense and Doodle: A Practical Guide by Miriam Silver -Attachment is never an easy topic and discussing the why’s and how’s of it can often be daunting but Miriam Silver has done a good job of trying to put this into layman terms that are easier to understand than most of the technical books out there.  Having the visual of the doodles also helps to understand why some children develop attachment disorders.  If you work with or are parenting a child with an attachment issues this book is helpful in giving you the insight into why a child may be doing certain things.    Retail $19.95 amazon.com $18.72 kindle edition $11.49


Mom at Last: How I Never Gave Up on Becoming a Mother by Sharon Simons – This book is filled with heartbreak and with joy.  We struggle along with Sharon as she faces infertility, the painful and degrading treatments, and even a late term miscarriage.  We are witness to the often frustrating process of adoption and the tragedy of foreign orphanages. We rejoice as Sharon and her husband bring their children home.  This book is an interesting read no matter if you have been touched by adoption or not.  It is the story of tragedy and hope and ultimately love.   Retail price $17.95 amazon.com $14.22 kindle edition $7.69


Hypothetical Future Baby: An Unsentimental Adoption Memoir by Claudia Chapman  –Great read. This book captures the many emotions and challenges surrounding adoption, becoming a trans-racial family and the loss experienced with infertility. I highly recommend this for anyone who wants an interesting read, anyone who is thinking of adoption or anyone who has already been touched by adoption.  This book will have you crying and laughing out loud.  amazon paperback price $10.78 Kindle edition $4.99

July Book Reviews 2013

ReadAll books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

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You Were Always in My Heart: A Shaoey and Dot Adoption Story by Mary Beth & Steven Curtis Chapman   – This is the reworked story of Shaoey and Dot Bug Meets Bundle.  Same beautiful sweet story but with a new name.  Dot finds Shaoey abandoned and travels with her as she goes to the orphanage and then to her forever family.   amazon.com price $9.35

25339The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz – Sensory disorders are gaining attention and this book provides lists of the common symptoms, as well as it’s possible causes.  It also is a great resource for activities to help children regulate themselves within different situations. It helps parents learn some of the clues that children exhibit and how to respond to their needs.  A good resource for parents of children with sensory integration disorders and autism.    amazon.com price $12.71 kindle price $9.99

imagesGay Parents/Straight Schools: Building Communication and Trust by Virginia Casper and Steven B. Schultz– The authors openly address the specific education realities and needs of lesbian and gay headed families.  They explore why gayness is perceived as such a threat, especially to the education of young children, when it can enrich the world views of children and adults. The book features wise insights from children, teachers, administrators and parents as well as useful strategies to ensure the best education for children. Amazon.com price $ 20.85