John Bowlby was one of the earliest attachment theorists and described attachment as a "...lasting psychological connectedness between human beings."
We have been home for five and a half months now. Veronika has done very well with attachments. She knows the difference between strangers and familiar faces and she prefers her family. She loves cuddles and gives great hugs. She is reserved around people she does not know, and does not like people she is unfamiliar with to invade her personal space.
Gavyn is getting better but still has a lot to work on with attachment. He does not understand the difference between strangers and familiar faces and will go to anyone. (he learned this skill in the orphanage due to neglect- he learned he had to get his needs meet by anyone he could reach out to) The moment he sees someone walk near, he will reach out his arms, even if someone else is already holding him. He has finally started to rest his head on my shoulder!! This is HUGE!!! He is also holding onto us when he is picked up. Before, he would let his arms dangle by his sides.
I have been doing a lot of research on attachment and have gotten in contact with a attachment therapist who we are hoping can offer some suggestions. The good news is that he is still very young. We can work on this and while it may take time, we are know we can help him to attach.
So what are we doing to help him?
- Mimicking him - helping him understand that there is a connection to us. When he makes a noise, we repeat it. If he puts a block in the bucket, we put one in as well.This allows him to feel like he is important. If he makes a face we make it back. It also is a great way to show him how to mimic so he is able to learn to mimic us.
- Meeting every cry - Because he never had his needs met at the orphanage when he cried, he learned not to cry. Now we are teaching him that he has a voice, his needs are important. Sometimes he will cry because he does not like to take his medicine or does not want his diaper changed, sorry son, those are things you will have to learn to accept. However, if he cries because he is tired, hungry, wet/poopy, or just wants to be held, those are cries we are answering and right way.
- Lots of Praise - we want him to know that we notice him. He is just learning how to splash in the tub, so every time he splashes we clap and tell him how good he is doing. When he works on his PT/OT we are telling him how we are so proud of him. When he makes an effort to try something new, we give lots of praise.
- Understanding - it can be really hard to see your child who is 15 months old and know that at 15 months they should be doing XYZ but they are not. You want them to meet those goals and milestones, however, we have to keep in mind that until we brought him home, he had never had the chance to do anything. It was as if he was a new born when he was home. So while age wise he is 15 months old, he has only had the last five and a half months to play with toys, to learn to sit up, to learn to crawl. I think that is pretty darn impressive!
- Babying – this may seem like a no-brainer. After all, he is still very much a baby, however, when you are trying to help them gain some skills, you often forget that hey, it is ok if I still spoon feed, bottle feed, etc. He missed out on all those attachments of being fed, cuddled, loved, so now we are giving it to him every chance we get.
- Adapting – After being a parent for 22 years, I am kind of set in my ways of how to parent. Veronika has easily accepted and is thriving in my normal parenting practices. With Gavyn, we are having to do things differently. I am learning how to parent a child with an attachment disorder, and accepting that the way I have always done things, is not what is best for Gavyn. By adapting the way I normally do things, we are able to meet his needs and help him learn to attach.
- Seeking - I am constantly seeking more knowledge, trying to discover what MORE we can do to help him. This quest will not stop until I know we have helped him fully attach.
- Persistence – Sometimes it can be frustrating and heart breaking. As a mother, seeing your child who is in your arms reach out to a stranger is very hard. It tears you to pieces. The key is to never give up, to know that one day, a stranger will walk by and he will not reach out, instead he will cling to you because he will want you instead.
This is not a complete list, as I learn more, the list will continue to grow. But for now, we are starting to see some progress, and are very encouraged!