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.
Not for them. But for us. As parents.
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.
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,