I had honestly never thought much about attachment before we began the adoption process.
Knowing now what I know about attachment I see how God designed babies and their parents perfectly to have loving attachments. By their nature, babies need a lot of physical touch and cooing and cuddling and care giving. Scientifically this has proven to release hormones in both the babies and their parents. Every time a babies needs are met the attachment grows and deepens. It's a beautiful and God ordained cycle.
However, we live in a fallen world. Things are not perfect, and sadly poverty, illness, and death can separate parents from their children. Young children separated from their early care givers through traumatic events will have experienced a time of their needs being unmet. I am not speaking of a delayed diaper change, but of something more serious. A baby who is hungry and there is no food. A baby who is scared and their is nobody to hold them. A toddler who is sick and there is nobody to rock him. These early experiences shape a young infant/toddlers view of the world. The world is not a safe place. It is a scary place.
When you bring your child home it is important not to forget that your child has a past. Even the littlest ones may be affected. You can estimate that you are at least the third caregiver in that child's life. #1-Birth Parents. #2-Orphanage #3. You.. this is actually a low estimate as caregivers in orphanages usually work in shifts. It will take time for your child to learn that you are now THE caregiver. Up until now..caregivers were temporary.
Here are ways we worked to promote attachment..
1. Prayer- God is so faithful. He wants you to come to Him. He is the healer of the broken hearted and the lifter of our heads. He can and will heal your children. It is never too early to start praying for them.
2. Regression- Now this is such a foreign concept to us as parents. We push our young children to be independent. We want them to sleep alone. We take away the Binky, we take away the bottle, we encourage them to do it for themselves.
This is a good and normal process for children who have always been in a loving home. For a toddler coming from an orphanage situation it is different. A lot of times children who have spent their early years in orphanages are too independent. They do not need anyone at all. This is not healthy. The best way to promote attachment is to spend a lot of time holding rocking and feeding your little ones.
We gave bottles to all of our toddlers and fed and rocked them at nap time and bed time...even the 3 yo.
We allowed our little ones to sleep with us until we felt like they were bonded enough to feel safe in another room at night. This was a blessing when our 3 yo was grieving . We were there immediately.
Play, play, play with your child. Enjoy them and tickle them when they are getting dressed. Be silly and sing to them and dance with them. Connect with them in positive ways as often as you can.
Toddlers love to help around the house. If you are dusting give them a little cloth. If you are changing loads of laundry let them help. Keep them close to you and in the same room with you as much as possible.
3. Meeting them where they are- Having expectations that your toddler is going to be just like your neighbors 2 yo or your nephew who is 3 may be setting unrealistic expectations for you, and for your child.
One of our children had no idea to play. Imaginative play was non existent. We would hand him toys and he would wing them across the room unsure of what to do with them. We put away the blocks and the cars and gave him baby toys. He loved them and soon learned how to play.
Potty training was something we chose not to enforce right off. It can be a highly charged issue with children who are not in the middle of adjusting to a new family. If your child is potty ing regularly great. If it is a battle put them in Pull-Ups and be low-key for a few months.
4. Routine and Limits-Your toddler will be under a tremendous amount of stress at homecoming. The different language, different food, different smells, different sounds can be scary and overwhelming. Our children found great comfort in sticking to a routine. It gave them security to know what was coming next.
Your children will need limits. If you don't want them pushing buttons on the TV then don't allow them to do it form the start. It is not fair to change rules on them. Consistently and lovingly enforce them. They need to know what is acceptable and what is not.
5. Don't freak out- Reading the books on attachment is important, and it will make you aware of attachment issues your child may be facing. Don't let it incite fear, however. If you go to the store and your toddler is trying to be indiscriminately friendly don't panic. It doesn't mean your child will have an attachment disorder. Make note of it and pray about it and work on it at home. Next time put your child in a sling or carrier so they are facing you.
I can remember taking our children to the store and our 3 yo would point and say "Daddy?" at every male he saw. It took me a few times to realize he wasn't looking for a Daddy he was looking for the word for man.
Which brings me to another point. We had our little Amharic cheat sheets stashed throughout the house so we would know what our little guy was saying. It took us a few days to realize the reason we still could not understand him is toddlers mispronounce words in other languages too. To him, bread (which is Dabo in Amharic) was Babo. We eventually figured almost everything out...even if we didn't know what he was saying we knew by the emotions when it wasn't good. We knew that his "Imbe" with a shoulder shrug ,albeit ADORABLE, was not a happy thing.
Time is on your side..every day your toddler will be growing closer to you and you to him. God will knit your hearts together. It is an awesome, and wonderful, and miraculous experience.