Friday, October 22, 2010

Adoption: Attachment and Night Terrors

I decided to drop in here today to talk about an event that has taken place around here several times. Three of four of our adoptive blessings have experienced them...terrors. Sometimes they occur at night, sometimes during nap, but they are never fun.

I can't fathom waking up, not remembering that I am no longer laying in neglect. I can't imagine the terror of waking up feeling utterly alone again. It's common though, sadly too common.

It is not a nightmare, or maybe I should say, "It's not JUST a nightmare."

I remember when I was 12. I had watched a scary movie at my friends house (not that my mom knew this). I woke up thinking the dream I was having was real. It was not based on any reality or anything I had been through.....just a scary movie.

Some of our children....many of them have lived the fear for real. They may have had a WONDERFUL orphanage and no neglect, but they have suffered such loss that it is not something anyone wants to dream of.

Rachel had one of those times last night. She had rolled in her sleep and the blanket wrapped around her until she couldn't move her legs.

*We have reason to believe she was tucked in so tightly at night in the orphanage that she was unable to move.

She woke up screaming, shaking, terrified. I had to get her to wake completely. She shook as I pulled her into bed with me. She was restless much of the night and scared.

Some, who may not understand attachment and the trauma that goes with it, may think some of this is manipulation.

This video shows manipulation (and it's funny)....terrors are not.

When a child is born into your family biologically they learn that you are there for them. As I've talked about in our series on attachment, an adopted child often needs to learn this. Night terrors are heartbreaking and a perfect opportunity to comfort your child and foster an even firmer form of attachment.

With a family formed through adoption, the difference is that the crying for us needs to be celebrated to an even greater degree. Are they manipulating? Possibly at times, but they are learning that (WOO HOO!!!!) you come when they cry.

Let me tell you, Gabe has THE funniest fake cry EVER....and I cherish it.

God has not given us the ability to erase our children's past trauma, but He has given us the ability to love them through it.


  1. The poor dear. That just breaks me heart! Yes, children are manipulators and some of them are very good at it, but I would never consider Rachel's behavior as manipulation. Poor thing was scared and needed comfort.

    I have seen that video before and it always makes me laugh!

  2. It is heart-breaking to think of what children go through. I'm so glad you are able to be loving and understanding, nurturing her through this. May God grant you the love and patience to give her the security and confidence she needs.


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