Are you prepared for the work of attachment?
- If a child has come into your family through foster care or adoption, he or she will likely come with a variety of challenges to overcome stemming from their early history. Early malnutrition, prenatal stress, abuse, neglect, and loss of their family and culture of origin are all keenly shaping influences in early development. Regardless of your child’s specific set of challenges, early trauma in any form can cause profound changes in a child’s early brain development as well as their ability to trust. You need to remain open-minded, compassionate, and ready to help a child navigate things that may be triggered by their early trauma.
- Generally speaking, trauma that occurs before brain maturation is more challenging to overcome than trauma after maturation. A stressful pregnancy, a difficult birth, early malnutrition, and early medical or physical trauma can each have profound effects on your child’s brain development and chemistry. Even children who are adopted at birth are not outside the realm of being impacted by their experience of disruption and early loss. Adoptive parents need to be prepared to help their children grieve and navigate these losses.
- Now more than ever, resources are becoming available to help adoptive families meet the needs of their children. Show Hope’s post placement resources are a great place to start but many therapists and counselors are also gaining understanding and training in early trauma and attachment challenges. A successful adoption is one in which a child finds love, healing, connection, and the ability to trust others in healthy relationships.
How to prepare before your child comes home
- A crucial first step in preparing to bring your child home is to anticipate and be prepared for any attachment challenges your child may have. Successful attachment is hard work and most keenly gained when a parent can commit the time and intentionality necessary to connect to their child’s heart and early experience (in some sense, becoming the best student of their child’s heart and motivations). This connection enables a child to gain an understanding of safety, acceptance, love and stability and serves as a forceful power to help usher healing into their lives.
- Be prepared and willing to look at what you as a parent bring to the table in your relationship with your child (both the negative and positive aspects). A child’s need for correction in a specific area is often more easily seen than what fundamentally drives their behavior or what negative factors you may have contributed to the dynamic as the parent. Understand your own weaknesses as well as your strengths as you enter into this journey of healing. It is much easier to lead your child where you have traveled yourself.
- Become familiar with the full spectrum of early intervention options available. Gain knowledge about these resources and decided which approach(es) might fit the needs of your child best. Be prepared to ask others for help in the process of helping your child heal.
- Remember that you are not in this alone. There are others who understand and appreciate the unique challenges and joys that adoption can bring and can offer meaningful support and guidance. Research professional therapists, support groups and resources that are best suited to address the needs of your child and family.
- Do not discount the shaping influence of your child’s early history, even if your child is not able to verbalize or understand how their early loss has impacted them. Be insightful about the potential way in which their early history can impact their reactions and ability to navigate emotions or outside stimulus. This will be a great help as you seek to help them heal and mature into healthy individuals with vibrant relationships.
- Pay attention and be sensitive to environments that might negatively impact or be overwhelming to your child once they are home. Sensory issues can often accompany children who experienced some form of early trauma. Having realistic expectations of what your child can navigate well is key in helping facilitate healing for your child.