Attachment is the sharing of emotional bonds. It is formed when two or more people have spent a considerable amount of time together, and where both parties are dependent on each other. A child fresh out of the womb can experience disrupted attachment the minute they are separated from their birth mother, just as a teenager within foster care can when removed from a parent. For this reason, adoptive parents should not run away from the issue or brush it off. The healthiest option for the child is to acknowledge attachment issues from the child and talk openly. Don’t be afraid that your child might not understand or that you might confuse them. Chances are, they need someone to start the conversation and to be seen.
This conversation could be complex if the child has just arrived into your family. Start small and be patient. If you need tips on how to bond with your newly adopted child, check out these articles on How to Connect after You Adopt a Child and 10 Healthy Ways to Bond With Your Adopted Baby.
What is Disrupted Attachment?
In order for you to effectively acknowledge attachment issues, you should identify what the problem is. Disrupted attachment for a child occurs when he or she is removed from their primary care-giver. No matter the amount of time of separation, their emotional well-being will be affected by this loss and the symptoms may appear later in life.
How it Might Affect Your Child
Symptoms might be unclear at first, especially for younger children who aren’t able to communicate their needs verbally. Their actions might seem inappropriate to you but they are doing what they believe will meet their needs. There is an internal instinct. Some common symptoms might include:
- Resistant to parental affections. This behavior could clearly indicate their state of mind. Opposing actions like hugs or cradling. Since the separation has caused them some emotional trauma, it will be hard for parents to comfort them. It might be hard for them to interact with adults in general.
- The big fuss. Even at a young age, your child understands when you are not around. What they don’t know is the duration of your departure. No matter if it’s a few minutes or hours, your child’s separation anxiety will cause them to cry, a lot.
- Learning or speech delays. Newborns have the capacity to understand when they have been separated from their birth mothers. When the time comes for them to begin talking, they might hesitate in front of you because they haven’t formed an attachment to you just yet.
Ironically, if your child shows signs of independence, it should not trouble you at first. Self-sufficient tendencies actually shows that they are developing attachment towards you. Being independent is a prerequisite to a healthy and strong relationship.
Ways to Acknowledge Attachment Issues
With the information presented, you might feel scared or concerned with your ability to become good parents. Don’t doubt yourself. Your child will see the love behind your actions. But your actions also need to be appropriate for the episode. Talk to your adoption experts first about some possible solutions. Below are some recommended methods to approach attachment issues and to acknowledge your child.
- Set realistic expectations. First and foremost, you should not dive into this believing you will rid your child of their issues immediately. This takes time and a lot of effort from both parties. Dedicate time towards the small accomplishment and celebrate every step taken. With this enthusiasm, your child will be thankful and be more open to expressing their honest emotions around you.
- Have boundaries. Though you are trying to get your child to open up to you, they should still understand what the appropriate behaviors are and what is expected of them. Boundaries are constants in a child’s life that make the world seem more predictable and approachable. Having limits will help them gain control over themselves.
- Make your child feel loved. Even though you believe that you always have your child’s interest at heart, sometimes your child might feel neglected with the amount of work you’re doing. Spend time with them. Play games. Read books. Take some time to remind your child that you love them, and you will remain a constant in their life.
- Be available after a conflict. If your child ever misbehaves, the ulterior motive is most likely attention. Be strict with how you discipline them, but also be ready to make amends after the conflict. This will help your child build trust in you. As a result, they’ll likely come to you with additional problems. If the issues arose because of you, own up to your mistake and apologize.
- Have a routine. Being a parent is busy, and with work and house chores, your schedule might not be consistent. When you build a routine, your child won’t have to worry about any unpredictability or instability in the house and will feel more at ease being around you.
- Show affection. Just because they’re experiencing attachment issues does not mean you should stop giving affection altogether. It is just a slow ascend. Start with small physical contact like hand-holding or hugs. Lastly, don’t forget to be respectful of what they might be comfortable with.
You Are Their Rock
Along the way, be patient and don’t forget to take care of yourself. You can’t help your child if you’re sitting on the sideline. Talk to friends, family, and professionals when you are in need. Don’t feel weak or shameful for asking for help, reaching out is the most courageous thing you can do.
You love your child, that is very obvious. Attachment takes time to build and by acknowledging any attachment issues, it will create a platform for you and your child to tackle the problem and hopefully resolve it. They might not be able to open up to you at the beginning, but sooner or later, they will realize that you are their safety and home.
Adoption Choices of New York
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of New York.
About the Author
Lisa Truong is an undergraduate journalism major at the University of Denver. She is minoring in writing and Chemistry. She has been commended by professors for her news stories as well as creative writing.
During her freshman year, her essay “See Ya on the Other Side” was displayed at a writing exhibition sponsored by the University of Denver. That essay later went on to be published in Many Voices One DU, a book also sponsored by the university.
Lisa frequently volunteers to be a leader at the Daniels School of Business for their quarterly Ethics Boot Camp where students learn about the importance of character in business. In her free time, Lisa enjoys watching animated movies with her mother, listening to music, going for bike rides, and eating breakfast food.
Aacap. Attachment Disorders, n.d. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Attachment-Disorders-085.aspx
“Adoption and Attachment Issues.” Focus on the Family, n.d. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/adoption-and-attachment-issues/.
“Attachment: What Adoptive Families Need to Know.” Focus on the Family, n.d. https://www.focusonthefamily.ca/content/attachment-what-adoptive-families-need-to-know.
“Tips for Those Parenting a Child with Attachment Disorder.” Pivotal Education, December 9, 2016. https://pivotaleducation.com/hidden-trainer-area/training-online-resources/tips-for-those-parenting-a-child-with-attachment-disorder/.