(Live blogging so excuse the occasional lack of capitalization.)
Coming from a point of self-care and loving the WHOLE child.
Empathy can change how we view the whole child – understand their challenges and experiences as we approach an issue.
Why is attachment so important?
Optimal parenting is 2 loving parents but usually these kids are not coming from this. Kids may have had trauma or major transition. rotating caregivers (even when they’re good) are not consistent and that affects the child. Too many caregivers, prenatal distress or drug use, abuse neglect, trauma and loss – all affect the child.
PTSD can happen anytime a child has trauma. even the adoptive process is trauma for the child (loss, language, etc.). Fight or flight mechanism fires at any trigger that can move them into an altered state (fear, paranoia, etc)
How do we best parent our child? Have to look at both the biochemical side and discipline side.
The amygdala (center of the brain) develops first and activates the sense of safety, attachment. Breastfeeding activates this. If they miss this the child feels unsettled in their own brain chemistry so they look for alternatives. One alternative is adrenalin so they will seek out those kinds of experiences. This will come out when dealing with behaviors. Us keeping calm will help.
Dopamine experiences (this feels good) need to be felt. We need to give our kids pleasurable
experiences in a bonding activity that calms them down in the midst of the adrenalin seeking behavior.
Besides chemistry issues there are issues of “learned behaviors” – feeding themselves, every man for himself, acting out abandonment (push us away before we can push them away), aggression, manipulation, yelling.
Make the assumption that your child has SOME level of attachment issues! (This is a spectrum.) the good news is that regardless of where they are these methods are good for EVERY child – you can’t attach too much.
Don’t overwhelm the child with your excitement over attachment. They need a gentle transition. Think about how it feels from their perspective. Study your child. What is their love language? What makes them feel safe and loved?
Basics – tons of kisses, hugs, soft tickles “safe touch” that doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable.
Lavish with encouragement, affirmations, intentional focused time w/ eye contact (staring contest game).
Consistency in saying “yes” we’ll provide for you. The child needs to understand that you are the one that meets their need. Let go of the idea that our kids have been “longing and waiting for a family” – they may not even know what a family is.
Give a child lots of “yeses” – 7 “yeses” to every “no”. (Let some stuff go – matching socks, etc.) sometimes this means giving them 2 choices that way they still have say but you can say “yes” and still show you are in charge.
Create dopamine experiences – dance party – that are safe.
Book recommendation “Therapeutic Play”.
Using scents – put your shirt on them, or in their bed. Create a new “scent of safety”.
When you get pushback, keep trying. Open your heart wide open and be ready to attach but be ready to be rejected and let it not hurt your feelings. It’s a dance and it is hard.
Pray for acceptance of your child no matter where they are in their attachment journey. Just like marriage, love is a decision.
You may feel resentful and hurt but don’t let those feelings affect how you act.
We need to change some of the scripts we have as parents. Pare down to the basics – gentle attachment, gentle discipline & self-care (forget the PTA). Remember “seasons of life”. This season of life is going to mean saying “no” a lot.
Attachment is about both quantity AND quality! If you’re wearing yourself and are frazzled by the quantity, they will pick up on that. (They are extremely adept at reading people.) They need you to be “present” as much as they need you to be physically there.
Good news is that we know God can heal! He is a restorative God.
Be gracious to yourself, get support.