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The Most Forgotten Habit for Healthy Attachment

April 17, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

I set out to share with you how many years later I’m still working on attachment with my most precious children. Forming and maintaining healthy attachment is something as parents we will work a lifetime on with both our adopted and biological children.

I wanted to share with you ways we have little “connection checks” — playing those eye connection games and regular heart to hearts. But for some of you reading this — maybe many — those ideas will just feel overwhelming like you have only more to do and you are just… well, very tired.

I get calls regularly for referrals for attachment therapists and counselors for adoptive parents when they are tired and weary. I can’t recommend having a good family and adoption counselor and resources enough. But. There’s something I think we have put too far down on our list of ways to form healthy attachments to our children and often it’s not on the list at all.

Rest.

Not for them. But for us. As parents.


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Some call this respite. But I don’t love the definition of the word respite for this kind of rest we need as adoptive parents: a short period of time when you are able to stop doing something that is difficult or unpleasant or when something difficult or unpleasant stops or is delayed (Merriam-Webster).

Until healthy attachment is formed — it does feel unpleasant. But because this is such a process, for many it can feel like years before we are deeply connected. Others this deep connection might be from day one. While it IS difficult it isn’t unpleasant; brokenness is always difficult — but for us as parents the healing and connecting during the broken actually carries a holiness to us—so that word “unpleasant” just doesn’t sit with me.

Rest. To be restored.

Some call this retreat — but I don’t love that definition for what we need as parents to help us work on attachment with our precious ones either: an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable; the usually forced withdrawal of troops from an enemy or from an advanced position (Merriam-Webster).

I don’t want to withdraw. While it may feel difficult and disagreeable at times to not have instant attachment — dangerous isn’t the word I’d shoot for and I’m certainly not withdrawing from an enemy when it comes to fighting for connection.

But rest. We forget how much we as parents need rest — to be restored.

I believe we need to move rest and restoration at the forefront of our connection and attachment reminder list of things to regular do as parents for our children.

Restore: to give back (someone or something that was lost or taken) : to return (someone or something): to put or bring back into existence or use: to return to an earlier or original condition by repairing it (Merriam-Webster).

Forming healthy, strong attachment between a parent and child who have missed the formative years together often feels like buying back time — only we all know time can’t be bought back. Forming healthy, strong attachment where so much is lost and broken truly requires so much more energy and often we forget to take care of ourselves — to restore ourselves — so we can continue to pour out, to come up with creative ways to connect, to try so many of the extra suggestions and connect deeply to our children who need this on a deeper level after they come home.

We find ourselves feeling too tired to even remember ways to connect or to even remember that our little ones might need us to take a different approach to something as simple as asking for another snack or making a mess that sends us cross-eyed while we weren’t looking. It’s very often we need our hearts to be repaired and restored so we are able to even respond to that list of ideas of how to connect — only many of us find ourselves unsure of how to even get our our hearts back again to help our little ones heal theirs.

Our children and connecting to their hearts are so worth fighting for — but you must first fight for your own heart before you can fight for anyone else’s. For how can a tired or empty spirit or heart really fight a good fight? We champion and cry that our kids are worth fighting for while we forget that we are, too. We need to put our air masks on first — take a breath… and then take care of our precious ones.

It can feel daunting, difficult or impossible to take care of ourselves after bringing home children who have special needs and need us to be ever present, but I want to encourage you to move the words restore my heart to the top of your attachment list for your children. For everyone that will look different. Make time to rest and take care of yourself whatever that means for you, and make sure you do this regularly — not just when you are in tears, broken and completely depleted.


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To help you remember and get started if it’s been awhile — here are just 3 ways I make sure I am regularly RESTORED:

1. I have one morning a week carved out for me to get a break. Because I’m a homeschool mom to five—I had to get creative. While they are in an elective day at a homeschool co-op—I take care of myself during that time. I rest and only do things that bring REST to my soul.

2. At least twice a year I leave for a weekend to rest. Some times this may be a girls weekend, a weekend by myself or a weekend with my husband. If we can’t find someone to watch the kids—we take turns and I’ll get away even if it’s by myself.

3. When things get hard and I need an emergency break, I have a friend who is my Respite – 9-11. Although I don’t love the definition of respite, there are times when I’ve completely lost sight and I feel like losing it in my responses — when my buttons are pushed. For you this could be a close friend or family member, but I think it’s essential to have someone on your team. For me it is my sister and she understands our needs and special circumstances — that sometimes I need respite so my heart can be restored. My sister has a heart for adoption but this is her family’s call to adoption rather than adopting to grow their family. There have been weekends that we needed to take a step back in order to take two steps forward — and there have been significant gains made in my choosing to be brave enough to say I can’t do it all and I really need their family to run beside us. Some of our biggest attachment achievements have been made after one of my loves having a weekend at their aunt’s house after a hard season and allowing my heart to have time to rest, process and refocus on what to do or where to go next.

It’s after these times of being able to be restored that I can pour out greater, take in more of His love and truth and focus on what we need to do next to go deeper. Too often we fail to see “take care of yourself” or restore your heart regularly any where on the list of forming healthy attachment—and more often we are reading those lists when it feels like things are really hard and we are desperate. But when we approach a situation rest and restored no matter how hard it is — it looks and feels completely different.

It’s my hope and prayer that you — no matter where you are — will remember that before you can bring restoration to others in your home that you have to have it yourself. Taking care of you is a vital part of healthy attachment in your home — and something you will as a parent always have to fight for. But you… sweet reader… are so worth fighting for, too. So I challenge you to fight for your own heart first — and then fight well and hard for the hearts in your home. And I pray that there will be sweet connections to follow.

Running with you,

The Burden of Expectations

April 17, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I will always remember the first time I made an attachment blunder. My three children had only been home a week.

It was a traumatic moment for both my daughter and myself. She was two and I was trying to “set limits” by telling her what she can and cannot do with the toys. She proceeded to “disobey” and so I said she would sit on the rug while I went into the other room and she could “think about obeying the rules”.

Wow.

When deciding to bring three home from foster care, I thought, “I got this.” I was a trained, practicing counselor who thought she knew enough about attachment and behavior. I had been to counseling, and thought I understood well all my triggers and deficits. I knew about trauma and had actual clinical training on how to handle misbehavior, for goodness sakes. Surely I was well equipped!

However, that day, after I assigned my baby girl to the rug, I was proven so very wrong. My sweet girl could not handle the separation as punishment and reacted instinctively to it, injuring herself; I was left dumbfounded. I sat just holding her and not understanding what had just taken place in the previous twenty minutes.

I tell this story to illustrate that we all have expectations, or beliefs, that we bring into the first few months of adoption. These expectations can lead to parenting mistakes when we act out of them.

Ruptures in attachment can also occur when we keep acting out of our un-met expectations. I made many mistakes during this time, acting out of these maladaptive expectations. Now I work with parents who have brought children, young and older, home from hard places; my hope is that I can help them from under the burden of these expectations that impede attachment.


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Expectations are common, and it would be hard to get through life without developing some! Here are five common expectations about attachment we may have early on in the adoption process:

1. I can parent the same way I have with my biological children.

I do not have biological children; however, I did have some pre-conceived notions of “good parenting”. I was a good mom before I became a mother . For those who do have other biological children, this one can be hard. Even if our child has been with us since birth, there were months of formation and environmental factors that had an impact on them. It’s not something we need to be afraid of, that time where we had no control over their development, but simply something we need to understand. The prenatal time gave our children a different set-point for stress and trust. If we respect these factors as simply historical differences, then we can give ourselves permission to parent them differently than what “worked” with our biological children.

2. Acting out is defiance or direct disobedience.

This is what I believed with my daughter’s “not obeying” about how we treat toys. In reality, there were several different things at play. She had undiagnosed partial hearing loss and a history of neglect that left her with a misunderstanding of social norms. These were just a few of the underlying factors that made her behavior seem “defiant” or “disobedient”. She was not being directly defiant or disobedient.

3. With enough love and structure, secure attachment should happen pretty quickly.

Many (including myself) think there should be a couple of months of the attachment process and then, say, after 3 months things can then proceed as “normal”. Attachment can begin to blossom in the first few months; this is true. However, many children need more than just a few months to build trust when they first come home.


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4. I will quickly know my child better than any one else.

We will become the advocates for our children and the ones who know them best. However, in the beginning, it is important that we listen to their caseworkers, their previous caregivers, and most importantly the child themselves. Our children are the experts on their own history. If they are too young to be vocal, then reading through their child-life history reports and becoming a detective of sorts, peering into their world, can be so important for bonding.

5. I will instantly fall in love with my child because they are mine.

This one can be hard since many of us may have had a “moment” at the births of our biological children, or another kind of “moment” when we saw our adopted child’s picture for the very first time. Then they came home and the reality of blending two different worlds into one loving family hits us smack in the face.

Love, the behavior, is a choice: practicing patience, being kind, not promoting yourself over others. The feeling of love, which I believe is more associated with attachment, takes time. I remember the time when I “fell in love with” my oldest daughter. The Lord had been working on me for a few months after I brought her home. And he was showing me how to parent her, and I was learning not to expect more of her than she could give. I was freed up to just hold her when she was “acting hard” or being “defiant”. And then one day, I asked her as I usually did, “Do you know you are precious?” That sweet-cheeked, baby girl face beamed back at me and said, “Yes!” and I was smitten! But that day took time to build towards.

Note how much these expectations have to do with a timeline!


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As an adoptive parent, I know the challenges, fatigue, joys, small victories, and utter confusion that come with the first couple of months! Hopefully, my missteps can lead to earlier interventions and healing for others.

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Eryn has experience doing a little of everything from professional baking, to catering weddings, to professionally counseling anyone from trauma. After adopting her sweet, challenging, rambunctious, awesome three, she needed a place for post-adoption support. So she started a non-profit where other parents could come and get much needed services. Eryn serves as Community Educator, training parents and others on successful ways to connect with kids from hard places.

Eryn’s love language is problem solving and she enjoys being a resource for parents who have adopted or have chosen to foster. She blogs at Pumpkin’s Pantry, where she posts on everything from the hard stuff of adoption to gluten-free recipes.

a family for Rosie

April 16, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I first learned about this precious girl on the Down Syndrome Adoption FB group and was immediately smitten. And when you see her picture, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Those chubby legs. That black hair. Those pink cheeks. Oh my.

Now that we are home with our Clementine, who also has Down syndrome, I have such a huge soft spot for these very special kiddos. Before we met Clementine, I was so scared that I wouldn’t be capable of parenting a child with a developmental special need. But I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful this journey has been. Clementine blesses our family daily. So I am praying for sweet Rosie, and that the Lord would bring the perfect forever family forward. Because she is absolutely precious in His sight.

Rosie was slow to gain weight and reach milestones when she entered the orphanage. At one year old the reason was discovered – an underactive thyroid. At that time she began to receive medication, and her growth and development have greatly improved since then. She is now 3 1/2 and her recent health check has shown normal thyroid activity. She is now a happy and chubby toddler.

Untreated hypothyroidism can cause growth and intellectual delays and little Rosie is definitely on the tiny side. Her very recently updated measurements are 75 cm and 10.4 kg. For those of you trying to do the math in your head, let me help… 75 cm is 29.5″ and 50%ile for a Chinese 15 month old and 10.4 kg is almost 23 pounds and 50%ile for a Chinese 2 year old (see height/weight charts here). Anyone interested in adopting Rosie would need to be okay with her petite size as well as the unknowns of intellectual delay, but the fact that she is growing and progressing well in her language and gross motor skills is wonderful!

Based upon the way she is described in her report, her personality has completely captured the hearts of those around her:

“At the age of 1.5 years, the child became to be a princess, and she sits in the rocking chair, and shakes her legs, and the rocking chair with rock with the rhythm, and she enjoys herself. When lying on stomach, there is her favorite toys, she will crawl to them and get them quickly, she can hold toys to play for a few minutes.

In March 2013, the child became more lovely, when meeting aunt she will smile, when found that aunt is feed other child, she will shout, it seems that: let me eat first please. But when comforted by aunts, she will not shout any more, and she will play her toys or shake her body.

At the age of 2 years, the child has richer facial expression, it looks likes a drama star, she has change every day, sometimes she will move on the blanket, sometimes he can out her hands into her mouth, sometimes she will bang toys together.”


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Rosie is now 3 1/2 and is speaking simple everyday phrases like “mama”, “sister”, “grandmother”, “thank you”, and “don’t want it!” She loves to talk and babble with familiar people, especially her friends.

Her caregivers say she is very bright and interactive and describe her as “a lovely girl whose presence brings a smile to everyone she meets”. Rosie is a great imitator. She can point to her body parts when asked, especially her nose, and can understand and follow commands such as clap your hands, stomp your feet or shake your head. She knows the names of her friends and can correctly match the slippers to 6 of her caregivers – giving them to the proper owner.

Rosie is a big helper, and will happily fetch different items for her caregivers or put dirty dishes in the sink. She will seek out a friend or caregiver to play with, often tugging on their hands to get their attention. She loves to be held and delights in her caregiver telling her she is obedient and pretty.


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Rosie can walk and run independently. She is able to reach objects placed at and above her eye-level and she loves to dance when the music is on. Despite the fact that she doesn’t like to have her face washed, she will wash it by following verbal cues and with a little encouragement from her caregiver. She can independently finger-feed and scribble with a crayon. 

Her caregivers believe she can become independent in most activities, and that her communication skills will improve as she has opportunities to learn and express herself. Her sweet and affectionate nature already endear her to all those around her, and her caregivers expect that she will bring great joy to her forever family.

Rosie is in the care of a wonderful NGO called International China Concern (ICC) where is adored. ICC’s model of care includes small family units with 6-8 children and 3-5 consistent caregivers. This allows the children to learn about and experience relationships, trust and love setting a great foundation for future attachment. If you have questions about ICC, feel free to contact Erin.

Here are some links that may be helpful to those who are considering adopting or have adopted a child with Down syndrome:

Down Syndrome Adoption FB Group
Special Miracles FB Group
National Down Syndrome Adoption Network
Gigi’s Playhouse
Ruby’s Rainbow

Rosie is listed with WACAP, who is offering a $7500 grant to help cover Rosie’s adoption expenses. The grant is available for a family that meets the income grant eligibility requirements, and uses WACAP to complete the adoption. WACAP is open to possibly transferring her file for a committed family, but the grant would not apply. There is also a Reece’s Rainbow account set up on Rosie’s behalf.

Please contact Lindsey Gilbert at WACAP for more information about Rosie.

find my family: Yanni

April 16, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Yanni is a 4 year old boy with epilepsy, which is well controlled by medication. He was found abandoned when he was only 10 days old. He has good speech and motor development and no other identified health issues. Yanni lives in a foster family and is very attached to his foster parents. He loves …Read More

Attachment: What’s Worked For Us

April 15, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

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I would say we are experienced in attachment but we are by no means experts. After adopting 13 children we have had quite a bit of “on the job” training! Ten of our adoptions have been with children between the ages of 5-11. Our daughter adopted at 11 years 3 months was not prepared to …Read More

Adopting a Child with Tuberous Sclerosis

April 14, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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If you have ever adopted from China before, you remember sitting at the table staring at that dreaded form asking you what special needs you thought you and your family could handle. Filling it out seemed cruel. On the one hand most of them scared me to death and at the same time it filled …Read More

find my family: Brayden

April 14, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Brayden was born in April 2012 and abandoned when he was 18 months old. After admission to the hospital he was diagnosed with Hemophilia A. His birth parents did leave a note so it is believed that his birth date is known. After spending about 6 months in a Care Center Brayden was transferred to …Read More

to love one

April 13, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

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She stands in the middle of the room, children at her feet. Some are fighting each other for her, the rest are begging to be picked up. A little girl with albinism sees me standing in the doorway and runs over, arms spread wide and high. I bend down and pick her up and within …Read More

find my family: Maria

April 12, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

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Maria is 18 months old. She was born with a cleft lip and palate and was abandoned on the side of the road on the day she was born. She’s been getting great care in the orphanage (now living with a foster family within the orphanage) and is doing well. Maria also has a small …Read More

Getting Closer

April 11, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

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Our daughter was nineteen months and four days old when she was handed to us in an alley outside the Civil Affairs office in north west China. We read and prepared as much as we could to attach to each other in a healthy way. We followed all of the rules as best we could. …Read More