Basics of Attachment/Does my child have attachment issues?

“The types of problems that adoptive parents see in their children are most likely the result of breaks in attachment that occur within the first three years.  And they are problems that impair, and even cripple a child’s ability to trust and bond —or attach—-to other human beings.”-Adopting the Hurt Child
Attachment is a buzz word now days.  It wasn’t thirteen years ago when we adopted.  Attachment disorders were scary things that pre-adoptive parents didn’t want to discuss. Some parents deny their adopted children have any attachment issues.  Not a likely scenario.  The fact that a child is eligible for adoption means that someone abandoned them by choice or circumstance- war, famine, poverty, slavery, drugs, neglect or alcohol abuse.  Abandonment comes with issues especially when the breaks in attachment occur within the first three to five years of life.  Children form their foundation for security in these first five years.  When the child cried, did  someone respond?  When the child was hungry, did someone feed them?  When the child discovered the laws of nature, did someone supervise and cheer on victories- crawling, walking, talking, jumping and those first “aha” moments?  That is attachment.  It an elementary cycle when it occurs the way God intended.

The child has a need—-he expresses that need (through crying or conversation)—–the need is met (gratification)—–trust (is built)

If you have ever been to an infant’s orphanage, the first thing you notice is the eerie silence.  Why?  The babies have given up on expressing needs.  The gratification stage is rarely reached so they begin the habit of self-soothing:  thumb sucking, head banging, rocking back and forth.  The self-soothing translates into self-reliance later in life.  Survival behavior becomes prominent.

If your child had breaks in attachment his first three to five years of life, he may have an attachment issue.

Attachment disorder symptoms:

  • Superficially engaging and “charming” behavior
  • Indiscriminate affection toward strangers
  • Lack of affection with parents on their terms (not cuddly)
  • Little eye contact with parents, on normal terms
  • Persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter
  • Inappropriate demanding and clingy behavior
  • Lying about the obvious (crazy lying)
  • Stealing
  • Destructive behavior to self, to others and to material things (accident prone)
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • No impulse controls (frequently acts hyperactive)
  • lags in learning
  • Abnormal speech patterns
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Lack of cause and effect thinking
  • Lack of conscience
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Preoccupation with fire
(from Adopting the Hurt Child)

If your adopted/foster child has some of these symptoms, he may have attachment issues.  It is not as scary as it sounds. Just a disclaimer, I am not an attachment expert, at least not one with letters behind my name.  I am an expert by experience and research.  Who is the expert in your family?  You are.  EVERY parent is. Parents have a gut feeling about these things.  Something is not quite right kind of feeling or he is not responding to love the way he should.  Each parent that has a child in their home with attachment issues becomes the expert.  You go back to school through reading materials at night, searching the internet for helpful blogs, joining a support group and daring to parent the child that God has placed in your home for such a time as this.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Attachment issues are not the end of things.  Adoption is a new beginning.  God makes all things new.  Stay tuned for some strategies and more on attachment!

Exciting News!

This Friday, February 20th, my Book- Positive Adoption: A Memoir will be out. Read more here including the first chapter FREE!

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