The Bonding Plan
*taken on their New Years celebration last week
For those of you who have not spent the last year talking to social workers and reading the latest research on bonding and attachment in adopted children, I’ll try to sketch out the psychology.
There is a process of bonding that occurs with babies and their parents when they are still in the fetus. They connect with their mother and father, and as they are born and go through stages of development, they build this bond as a foundation of trust that their needs will be provided for. This allows them to explore new things and create new relationships.They also experience attachment, which is more of a series of shared experiences that bring people close to each other. Think of the hundreds of interactions that happen between a baby and its parent throughout the day.
When a child is bounced between caregivers, they don’t get a chance to build that bond and attachment, and so they don’t have a foundation to build other relationships of trust. They are stuck in a defensive or reactive mode, with the brain wired to respond to an uncertain world.In adopted children, the best way to build that bond is to spend lots of time together -to create attachments – to be there constantly, providing for the child's needs, which facilitates bonding. That means being the caregiver, promptly responding to their needs, lots of eye contact, touch, smiling. It also means toning down the stimuli, creating predictable patterns and schedules, and just being around all the time as the sole focus of the child's attention.
This is massively simplified, but you get the idea.
Working with our agency, we have laid out some plans and parameters to facilitate the bonding and attachment with our girls. While there may be some flexibility in the timeframes, we believe it is extremely important to make these investments now so we can give our kids the foundation of strong relationships for the future.
What the adoption experts suggest :We may be going 'underground.' They suggest being on lockdown for the first 2-3 weeks. Not inviting people to come over to see the kids, and family visits should be short.
We totally dropped the ball on this one when we brought Sova home. Within the first week home, Sova had been to a large family pool party- flung into the air by great aunts in the pool and a couple trips to Target. I think I am scarred for life from those experiences- I have never wittnessed meltdowns to that degree in my life!We are encouraged to not go out much, especially to events with lots of people, noise and stimuli, for 2-3 months. We have to pick and choose our outings carefully. Again, predictability and comfort are important her. We also have to keep in mind that they are from a rural African setting so we are adding culture shock into the mix. Christmas will fall into this timeframe and we all know how overwhelming this season can be...maybe having the girls home will help us keep things simple- the way it was it kind of feels like it should be!
This is not very 'Turner like.' We are an on-the-go, busy family who acutally enjoys the fast pace. We love getting out but we have learned our lesson before! It's gonna be hard but we need to hunker down for a bit. Not sure what this time will look like exactly- but we know it is important for all of our sakes.
We are all excited to experience alot of 'Firsts' with the girls. They have had to grow up WAY too fast. I heard another adoptive mother of an older child use the term, 're-claiming their childhood.' I'm stealing that term and giving that to the twins as a gift. That's why at 11 years old- we didnt think twice about giving them dolls...most likely they never had one and they never got the memo that most 11 year olds are done with dolls. For their own benefit we plan on keeping them young and letting them experience a childhoood.
Homeschooling helps because while Im reading fairy tales, teaching the basics, playing with clay, finger painting, or stirring batter with the littles...the twins will be right there learning along with us...and I have a feeling they may be more excited than my 1st and 2nd graders for most of these things!
For some of you, these steps seem natural and understandable. Other's may not understand the psychology behind this...but trust us- it's there :)
Please pray for us. This will be a beautiful, wonderful time, but it will be inconvenient and awkward and stressful too.
Again, this is all temporay, we’ll ease back into the craziness soon enough, the girls will go off to friends birthday parties and we will look back and say 'remember when...' :)