This week, I'll be tackling some questions about relationships. Attachment and bonding are buzz words in the adoption world - and for good reason, as they are absolutely essential for a child and their family to thrive!
Before I get started, I want to address the fact that every child, family, and situation is different. My answers don't represent every adoptive mom or adoption.
Severe neglect can result in something called Reactive Attachment Disorder. While some of the behavioral descriptions may seem to match any kiddo from a trauma background, there are specific criteria for this diagnosis. It is not something that can be simply loved away - it is a real, painful disorder that wreaks havoc in the life of the child and their family. I am incredibly grateful that is not something we have personally had to face, and I have the utmost respect for the children and parents who are learning how to be a family with that component heavily effecting their every day life.
how long did it take to bond with your adopted child?
We have to realize that creating a deep bond with a child - one that spans grief, loss, and trauma - takes time. Infatuation can happen immediately - being overwhelmed with compassion, empathy, and even joy - when looking into the eyes of your child. But trust, attachment, and bonds are built by walking through life together.
Realizing this is imperative to not suffering a tremendous amount of guilt. The romanticized notion that you and your child will lock eyes for the first time and fall instantly in love with one another is dangerous --- because it is impossible.
I loved our sons immediately. Because love is a choice - or in the infamous words of DC Talk, love is a verb. Choosing to show them love, compassion, and empathy regardless of emotion is critical. Because it's in those moments that we find the opportunity to connect and develop a bond!
There were many nights I cried myself to sleep, wondering how I could not FEEL the way I thought I was supposed to feel about my sons. I questioned whether I was the best mom for them, because my emotions weren't the same towards them - yet. One evening, my husband sat next to me and reminded me of an important truth: With our biological children, I had 9 months of them in utero to bond. I had nursed them after birth, and spent their first months caring for their every need. There were days I was tired, cranky, and not feeling like sunshine and rainbows --- but that wasn't because I was a bad mom. It was because the season was challenging, and I was learning my role as the momma of a newborn - and then a baby with a toddler - and 2 toddlers with a new little one. This was really not so different. I was learning what my son needed - and how to balance the needs of all my children. All the while, I was learning about him, his past, his strengths, and struggles. Not feeling all rainbows and sunshine didn't make me a bad mom - it was simply a learning season.
So, to answer the question - I could not tell you the number of hours, days, weeks, or months it took me to bond with my sons. The realization didn't hit me like a ton of bricks one day as we stared star-struck at one another. It just WAS. It was different for each of them --- and just like with all my children, those bonds continue to strengthen and develop as they get older. My hope is that the precious process of bonding and attachment continues for a life time with each of them!
can you treat your adopted and biological children the same?
Yes and no. (Don't you just love those kinds of answers?!)
I love our children the same. I do my best not to show favoritism or bias of any kind. The times when I do, it is not the child's biological make up but rather their behavior that influences this! Just like any parent, I find it easiest to connect with a child who is being respectful, who holds a similar value system, and who (even if not perfectly behaved) desires to be a part of things and work together. It is far more challenging to be patient with a child whose strong will and big personality is set on causing disruption and drawing attention. The former and latter definitions have been applicable to all six of our children at various times!
That said, the way I parent each child depends on their personality, strengths, development, and history. Our children respond differently to stimuli, correction, and discipleship. (Which I prefer to discipline, because truly the goal is to train them up as a disciple of Jesus - not just to curb behaviors until they are out of our home!)
how did you become a family unit?
Time. Prayer. Interaction. Playing.
We spent time together. Following each adoption, just like with each birth, my husband took off some time from work so we could focus on our family. We backed off of other commitments and spent time with our children and each other.
We prayed. For our family and as a family. We asked others to pray for us, as well.
We encouraged healthy interaction and boundaries between all family members. Some bonds took longer than others - but we allowed that to be okay. We allowed each of our children to express their feelings freely, as long as it was respectfully and to mom or dad in private. If disagreements needed to be addressed, we guided them in doing so in positive ways.
Play. This one is actually hard for me. I'm a doer by nature, and taking time to play seemed counter productive. But it wasn't. Beginning Parent Child Interactive Therapy has been a blessing to our family. We are still working on being super consistent with our special time, but it has already helped attachment!
So, there we have it friends! If you missed the first or second parts of this series, you can find them here and here! Do you have questions about adoption I didn't tackle during this series? Leave them in the comments! If part of this series encouraged you, I'd love to hear about it!
Here you will find the musings of a homeschooling, work from home, adoptive Momma of 7! Adventures in faith, family, adoption, and training up a tribe to follow hard after Jesus are spilled into these posts --- most often written with a cup of coffee in hand. I hope you'll stick around a while and find something - more likely SOMEONE! - that brings you hope!
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