Sunday, August 12, 2012

Attachment...what does that mean? (Part 1)

As we continue through the final stages of this process we continue to covet your prayers. Now, we want to be upfront with you and acknowledge that this two part series is LONG and a lot of reading, but we are asking that you take time to read over the next few paragraphs carefully as to completely understand what we think life will look like once Brandt comes home. 

Before we get to the part about Brandt being home, we need to talk about a key issue that adopted children and parents must work through together: ATTACHMENT. Attachment, which is a big buzz word in the adoption community, is defined by Adoption Parenting as "a close, trusting tie between two people; or in particular, as the reciprocal relationship between an infant and his/her primary caregiver... Healthy attachment occurs when the infant experiences his/her caregiver as consistently providing emotional essentials such as touch, movement, eye contact and smiles, as well as the basic necessities such as food and shelter (p.43)."  This is typically a natural process for biological children, but for adopted children (even a child adopted at day 1 in the hospital); they have life experiences and in many cases experienced major losses that can interfere with the attachment process. 

In our case, we must remember that Brandt comes from a hard place. According to Dr. Karyn Purvis, any child that is eligible for adoption or foster care comes from a hard place and often experienced things many of cannot even fathom.  In Brandt’s case, he has had a very difficult first year of life - no matter how you look at it. He was severely malnourished, abandoned, battled significant illness, and was placed into two different orphanages, all within the first 8 months of life. In all this hardship he has consistently learned to expect inconsistency. He has seen people come and go in his life and not  had an opportunity to experience meaningful attachment with anyone. 

On top of this, we are about to go pick up him and fly him halfway around the globe, far away from the only “home” he has ever known, where he will suddenly be in new surroundings (again), living with completely new people (that he has not attached with), listening to a completely different language that he does not understand. Nothing will be the same. This can be very scary and traumatic for any child, no matter what their age. 

In light of this we must remember that children who were institutionalized and later adopted can deal with a wide set of emotions that lead to different reactions. These emotions are listed as loss, rejection, guilt and shame, grief, mastery/control, identity and intimacy (Adoption Parenting, p.7). If these emotions are not processed correctly, with the caregivers, then internal reactions occur. This means the way we, as parents, help Brandt heal and meet his needs affects the attachment that he will have to us.

Therefore, we trust that through lots and lots of prayer and some with some rather seemingly “rigid” guidelines that Brandt will attach to us.  Brandt has to learn what parents are, that we are his parents, and that he can trust us.  He needs to understand that not just anyone that walks in the door is a caregiver and provider, but that we are his sole providers now.  Many children that have spent time in institutions are very eager to go home with just about anyone who walks in the door and can be overly affectionate to strangers.  We are going to slowly try and reverse this so that Brandt understands the idea of a family unit. This process will probably take YEARS, however, there are some things that we can begin doing as soon as he come home that can help with the attachment process. 

This is where "cocooning" comes in.  In the next post we will talk a little bit about this and what it will look like for us as a family once Brandt is home! Stay tuned...

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