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Promoting Attachment in Adoption

One of the most important jobs an adoptive family does is to attach to one another. A lot of water has passed under the bridge of our lives since the first awkward photo we took with Zinashi. We barely knew each other. We loved her, but she didn’t love us yet. We had to get to know each other and get close and prove to her that we were her family, forever. We are still proving to her that she is safe and we will never leave her. There have been a lot of transitions in the twenty-one months since we first held her in our arms. She has come a long way, and we truly feel like a family, but there is still work to do. We need to continue to nurture a healthy attachment.

There are many books and websites that give excellent information on what attachment is and how to go about it. I still refer back to the books I’ve read and make sure that we are on the right track. Different families will choose different tools to promote attachment. We feel quite strongly about some of our choices, but the main point is that if you work at attachment, you will end up with a happier, healthier family. For us, there are six things that we have done consistently that have deepened our attachment with Zinashi. We intend to do these same things with Elvie in order to cement our bond and give her an understanding of family.

 

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  • Get Physically Close 1 of 6
    Get Physically Close
    For the first three weeks we were together as a family, Zinashi sat on either Jarod's lap or mine to eat at every meal. It was an easy way to get physical closeness in and help her become accustomed to us. We also pulled her onto our laps at other times when she was willing to sit still. If she would allow a hug or a kiss, we gave it to her as often as possible.
  • Proximity 2 of 6
    Proximity
    When Zinashi was busy playing, we would be nearby. If we had nothing else to do, we might simply sit there while she played. Once we were home and I needed to get things done, I would get her set up with something to do near me.
  • Babywearing 3 of 6
    Babywearing
    A good baby carrier is essential. Even in the middle of the worst meltdown, if I put Zinashi in the carrier on my back and started walking, she would calm in minutes. I held onto her feet so she could feel my touch through the soles of her shoes. When she needed closeness while I was doing chores, this was an excellent way to give that to her but still have my hands free to do other things.
  • Co-sleeping 4 of 6
    Co-sleeping
    I will sing the praises of co-sleeping forever and ever. Having Zinashi in bed with us at her most vulnerable time allowed us to comfort her before she would fully wake. It also helped us to feel close and cozy with her. After a day of limits being tested, nothing promotes a feeling of goodwill towards your child like seeing them sleep peacefully. We found that the benefits of this far outweighed any drawbacks, and we were able to find creative solutions to every objection people would voice. At nearly two years together, Zinashi still spends the balance of the night with us after falling asleep on her own in her bed.
  • Allow Regression 5 of 6
    Allow Regression
    Regression allows for nurturing experiences that infants receive to be given to an older child. Connecting wtih a child in this way allows them to connect with you in the way a brand new baby connects with its parents, creating the bond that children usually make with their parents in their earliest days. While we have transitioned out of most of the regressive needs, when times get stressful, Zinashi will sometimes need to be babied. Whether that means a bottle of milk or a turn in the rocker or both, we allow it, confirming for her once again that we are there to meet even her most basic needs.
  • Be the Primary Caregiver 6 of 6
    Be the Primary Caregiver
    If it is possible for one parent to be home with the child in the beginning, this is an optimal situation. For the first few weeks and months, you are showing your child that you are the parent, and the way you do this is by meeting every basic need yourself. In our family, it made the most sense for me to stay home, so I was with Zinashi most of her waking hours. If I needed to go somewhere during the day, she went, too. If there was something I absolutely had to do alone, Jarod was the one to take care of her. Even now we are mindful that she does best when the majority of her waking hours are spent with one of us.

 

Read more of our family story at Finding Magnolia
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