Children from hard places require a process that leads them toward attachment. Unlike babies who hear their mother’s voice from the womb, a child from adoption or a foster situation needs extra time and energy spent on forming positive attachments.
“The more the child feels attached to the mother, the more secure he is in his acceptance of himself and the rest of the world. The more love he gets, the more he is capable of giving. Attachment is as central to the developing child as eating and breathing.” ― Dr. Robert Shaw
You see, your child may not remember neglect, hunger, or abuse in a vivid way, but his/her body always will. There are triggers that need to be worked through and trust that needs to be built.
Sometimes the idea of attachment is scary to adoptive families. They ask, “What if they never attach?” But the good news from Fi Neweed is: “We do not need to know the beginning of a child’s story to change the ending.”
So how do we change the ending? Here is a list of 8 attachment-based activities for adoptive parents.
1. Games that require eye-contact.
Eye-contact isn’t always easy for kids with trauma. Though they should never be forced to look someone in the eye, playing games together that require a connection visually is a great way to encourage attachment.
2. Piggy-Back Rides
This offers physical touch and helps build trust. It can be intimidating to ride on someone’s back, but it’s also a lot of fun! Start slow and then work your way up to running and twirling with your little attached to your back!
3. Do each other’s hair, makeup, or face paint!
My daughter loves doing hair, so this is a great way for her and me to connect. She has even started doing her dad’s hair in “pigtails” and barrettes. Doing one another’s makeup or painting faces is also a great way to offer touch that doesn’t feel awkward as there is a purpose with the touch.
4. Dance together.
One of the best ways to connect through dancing is to hold the child in your arms and close up against your chest. This may feel uncomfortable to the child at first so work your way up to this! It’s a synchronized activity that also offers a feeling of closeness.
5. Play Peek A Boo.
This game offers eye contact and shows the child that you’re still there even if you can’t see each other!
6. Trade love notes.
Once the child can read and write, words of affirmation through leaving love notes in a notebook or slipped under the door can really mean a lot to a child!
7. Sing songs.
Scoop your child up onto your lap and sing songs together! Choose songs that are quiet and soothing at first and then you can branch out to different genres. A slow, calming voice like a mother uses with a baby is important to use with a child from hard places until trust is built!
8. Practice showing grace along with discipline.
“The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways” ― Russel Barkley
Disciplining a child who has experienced trauma is much different than a child who has been with you from the start. Your main attachment focus should be on showing grace! As the quote above reminds us, these children may ask in unloving ways, but they simply want love and loyalty!
When adoption attachment is hard, remember that your relationship with your child impacts his/her entire life! Dr. Dan Siegal said, “The relationship you have with your child shapes the structure and function of your child’s brain.”
Don’t give up! Try different things until you find what works! Attachment’s best for everyone involved, and though it takes time,
Ask us in the comments if you need more support along your adoption journey so we can help point you to more resources!