Sunday, December 4, 2011

Understanding Attachment~Part VI~Putting the Pieces Together

These posts, far from professional, are meant as an introduction to the world of attachment (sensory issues, and transitioning) that we face in adoptive parenting. They are just the tips of the iceberg, if even that. Yet, prayerfully, they will help those in our lives understand what it took us many years to.

If you have yet to read the previous posts, just click the links below.
"Understanding Attachment~Part I~How it May Start"
"Understanding Attachment~Part II~How Our Children May Feel and Moving Forward"
"Understanding Attachment~Part III~Helping Others Understand"
"Understanding Attachment~Part IV~Misunderstandings/Our Stories"
"Understanding Attachment~Part V~When Parents Find a Hard Time Attaching/Choosing Love"

This last year and a half has had me very thoughtful. I’ve had several parents mention that friends and family don’t understand that they have to parent their child of trauma (because of the loss they have faced, it is trauma) differently.
Picture a beautiful puzzle…its fluid with movement, not the stationary one dimensional puzzles we have now, but alive. As you look at it, you see the pieces of your life. You see your husband, each of your children, your friends, maybe smaller pieces with activities (that are not quite as fluid). God is the puzzle maker. He has created our puzzles. They fit together perfectly.

When you glance to your puzzle, it is complete and beautiful. You could watch it forever…the oceans of colors waving across it. One day you look down and your puzzle has expanded. It has a huge intricate empty space right in the middle. With joy you realize that this is your next child!

You spread your arms, looking for a puzzle piece…feeling for that one smooth missing piece. Instead you find a multiple of very complicated pieces with jagged edges.

It won’t be as easy to put together as it looks.
This is often our child…rough from trauma, fissures dividing pieces, not one…but many aspects that need the healing touch of God and through Him…us…to help mend those pieces until the beautiful fluid piece is all one.

We can’t parent a child the same that doesn’t understand love, family, attachment, the sensory world, or know our Heavenly Father (though He knows them).
We cannot call a car a plane and throw it up in the air and expect it to fly.
Just because many think children should all be parented the same, doesn’t mean that’s reality.

Here are a few examples:
A child that has been here since birth may know the value of family. What they hate IS a “time out”. They don’t want to be separated from anyone. Not to mention that they are solidly attached.
A newly home child may find their comfort in being alone, because that’s what they are used to. It is NOT what they need, but what they want. A “time out” may be exactly what they are seeking…to push you away…to be living in their own world. A “time in” may be much more successful. It doesn’t interrupt the attachment process; it places them near you to think about what they’ve done. They may not like it, but need it.
A child who has been here since birth may throw a complete tantrum at the store. They are mad and want their way. They feel safe, but are being stubborn. Consequences are a natural next step.
A newly home child may throw a complete tantrum at the store. They may be scared with too much sensory input. They may feel overwhelmed and fearful. They may need to be removed from the situation and held to feel safe. They may need comforting sounds or places. They are not being stubborn or acting spoiled.
A child that has been here since birth may know the “rules” of the house…of life. They know when they do something wrong, there are consequences.
A newly home child may need many “redo’s”. They may need to practice the right behavior until it’s ingrained. They may need a firm “no” and need to practice what’s right. Otherwise the newly home child may be facing negatives all day instead of creating a chance for praise and positive reinforcement.
A child who has been here since birth may be surrounded in love so constantly that they can securely go to others and love on those that are not immediate family around them.

A newly home child needs to discover who and what family is. It may be detrimental to that idea to pass them around and even let them go to those they may want to.

A child that has been there since birth may be able to have set snack times between breakfast and lunch. They have never known real hunger.
A newly home child may have hunger ingrained in them. They may “crash” if they don’t eat and drink every couple of hours as the fear there is no next meal sets in…it’s not logic, but ingrained. They may need to have a basket of healthy food that is JUST their food by their bed...to feel safe.
A child that has been there since birth may know they can ask you for things or that they can tell you that they broke something...well...that they weren’t supposed to touch in the first place.
A newly home child may use manipulation to get what they want, because that’s all they have known in the past. They may use “charming” behavior or lies instead of owning up to a mistake…because when they received consequences in the orphanage or previously in their lives it was extreme and more than their bodies and minds could handle.These are just a few examples of looking beyond the child in front of you to what lies beneath. Someday we may get to a point where all our children can be parented similarly…maybe. All children are so different, both home since birth and newly home, and often need some different parenting skills. Some hurt children may take many more years.

Whether others understand or not, this is reality. Yet, to those of you supporting many of these families...your understanding and support is priceless.

The puzzle pieces may be fractured and rough, but through God it is a privilege to watch the pieces slowly meld together to become one. It’s a privilege to watch the joy on the face of a child as they start figuring out what “safe” and “love” means. It may be a battle, not for the faint of heart, to fit those pieces together. It’s worth it though.


Someday, we may find that our personal puzzle (with all its pieces) is really just a puzzle piece in itself…fitting perfectly into God’s plan.
"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
Adoption Stories/The Plight of Orphans #1, #2, and #3
"Saving Levi: Left to Die...Destined to Live by Lisa Bentley"
"There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children by Melissa Fay Greene"
"Love in the Driest Season: A Family Memoir by Neely Tucker"

Other posts in this series..."Understanding Attachment~Part I~How it May Start"
"Understanding Attachment~Part II~How Our Children May Feel and Moving Forward"
"Understanding Attachment~Part III~Helping Others Understand"
"Understanding Attachment~Part IV~Misunderstanding/Our Stories"
"Understanding Attachment~Part V~When Parents Find a Hard Time Attaching/Choosing Love"
"Understanding Attachment~Part VII~To Those Who Will Be There"
"Understanding Attachment~Part VIII~Spiritual Warfare"

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