I am posting this list once again as a reminder to our family and friends on what to expect when Zoe comes home. This will be a totally new experience for us too and a very different experience than we had with Lilah. Lilah was in foster care and knew what a family and a home was. She mourned very hard for a good week, but overall adjusted very quickly.
Zoe has been in an orphanage for over 3 years. A very poor and basic orphanage. We have no idea what her care has been like there or what her day to day routine is. We don't know anything about the nannies and how much affection or attention or discipline she has had. She has never had a mama or baba or siblings. She doesn't have food whenever she wants it. She likely doesn't leave the orphanage very often and has probably rarely been in a vehicle. She is not used to a consistent caregiver. These children usually appear to adjust fairly well and quickly, but the attachment with them can take a very long time.
Because of this, we plan to cocoon with Zoe for awhile when we get back home. We will stay in the house as much as possible with just our family. We will cut back on a lot of extra curricular activities. She will always be with Tim or I and we will be the only ones to take care of her needs.
We would love for people to talk to her and touch her and show her how special she is when we are out. I want everyone to know that all they need to do is ask first if something is okay to do.
1. Trust the mother's instincts. Even a first time mother may notice subtle symptoms that well-meaning family and friends attribute to "normal" behavior.
2. Accept that attachment issues are difficult for anyone outside of the mother to see and understand.
3. Be supportive even if you think everything looks fine to you.
4. Allow the parents to be the center of the child's world. One grandfather, when greeting his grandson, immediately turns him back to his mom and says positive statements about his good mommy.
5. Tell the baby child every time you see her what a good/loving/safe mommy she has.
6. As hard as it may be for you, abide by the requests of the parents. Even if the child looks like she really wants to be with Grandma, for example, she needs to have a strong attachment to her parents first. Something as simple as passing the child from one person to another or allowing others, even grandparents, to hold a child who is not "attached" can make the attachment process that much longer and harder. Some parents have had to refrain from seeing certain family members or friends because they did not respect the parents' requests.
7. Accept that parenting children who are at-risk for or who suffer from attachment issues goes against traditional parenting methods and beliefs. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues.
8. Remember that there is often a honeymoon period after the child arrives. Many children do not show signs of grief, distress, or anxiety until months after they come home. If the parents are taking precautions, they are smart and should be commended and supported!
1. Assume an child is too young to suffer from emotional issues related to attachment.
2. Underestimate a new mother's instincts that something isn't right.
3. Judge the mother's parenting abilities. What looks like spoiling or coddling may be exactly what the child needs to overcome a serious attachment disorder. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues.
4. Make excuses for the child's behaviors or try to make the mother feel better by calling certain behaviors "normal". For example, many children who suffer from attachment issues may be labeled strong-willed by well-meaning family members. While being strong-willed can be seen as a positive personality trait, this type of behavior in an attachment-impaired child may signify problems.
5. Accuse the mother of being overly sensitive or neurotic. She is in a position to see subtle symptoms as no one else can.
6. Take it personally if asked to step back so the parents can help their child heal and form a healthy and secure attachment. You may be asked not to hold the child for more than a minute. This is not meant to hurt you. It is meant to help prove to the child who her mommy and daddy are. Up until now the child's experience has been that mommies are replaceable. Allowing people to hold the child before she has accepted her forever mommy and daddy are can be detrimental to the attachment process.
7. Put your own timeframes on how long attachment should take. One mother was hurt when she was chastised by a relative who couldn't understand...after all, the child had been home six months. It could take weeks, months, even years. Every child is different.
8. Offer traditional parenting advice. Some well-meaning family members will tell a new mother not to pick the child up every time she cries because it will spoil him. A child who is at-risk or who suffers from attachment issues must be picked up every single time she cries. She needs consistent reinforcement that this mommy/daddy will always take care of her and always keep her safe.
9. Fall into the appearance trap. Some babies/toddlers with attachment issues can put on a great show to those outside of the mother/father. What you see is not always a true picture of the child. Even babies as young as 6-months-old are capable of “putting on a good face” in public.
10. Lose hope. With the right kind of parenting and therapy, a child with attachment issues can learn to trust and have healthy relationships. But it does take a lot of work and a good understanding of what these children need.