Attachment Issues and Attachment Disorder

It is human nature to want to be loved, to feel safe and feel close to others.

As you are looking into adoption you might think that love will solve all problems and will solidify your relationship with the child you just brought home. Sometimes it happens like that, but sometimes it does not. Children that have suffered early experiences of neglect, abuse, hospitalization, institutionalization or separation from their caregiver, become reluctant to trust or to love others. They grow up believing they are unlovable and others must not be trusted, that life is empty and that the only goal is to survive.

Attachment develops during the first year of life, but in the case of adopted children may occur later. Attachment is necessary for the development of conscience. Attachment means the child feels secure, security gives the child higher self-esteem and so as the child grows he/she will be able to more effectively face and solve life's challenges.

All institutionalized children from foreign countries and also children who have spent time in foster care have some attachment issues. There are even cases when our own biological children have attachment issues, but they can be overcome.

Attachment ranges from securely attached, through several degrees of attachment issues, all the way to severe attachment disorder.

As you are engaging in an adoption you might think that love will solve all the problems and that it will surround your relationship with the child you just brought home. Sometimes it happens like that, but sometimes it does not.

Children and parents have attachment issues when it comes to adoption. Why am I saying this? Because you need to think like the child thinks. How would you feel and trust someone if nobody ever loved you, if nobody ever cared about you, if you had been abandoned, maybe several times? Would you trust anyone right away? Would you easily attach to someone you do not know? When a child is put in a nice and loving home, he/she feels it would not last; therefore he/she will not get too comfortable too soon. The child will wait and see if he/she will be loved first and then love back.

On the other hand, parents that bring home an adopted child need to deal with their own attachment issues. Let me tell you that you are not a bad person or a bad parent if you do not feel immediately attached to this child (your child now). You need to give yourself some time to love your child. When adopting an older child you might feel that if you love the child enough, everything will be OK. But it is not like that, because it might happen that after month of being pushed away by your child, you will start feeling anger, frustration and hurt. This is all normal and understandable. It is very important that you talk about your feelings and have a good support system in place. I would advise you to become well informed about attachment issues before you start the adoption process. Just remember one thing, this child you are adopting never learned how to love and trust anybody and they are not intentionally trying hurt you or destroy your life, they just need your constant patients, reassurance and of course love.

For parents who adopt school age children it is important to help the kids deal with the adoption issue first, by creating a family environment characterized by honesty, openness and non defensive communication, providing freedom to the child to explore their feelings about their birth parents, help them find a supportive view of their origins and especially of the circumstances of their relinquishment. Children's emotional well being is tied to their self esteem and self esteem in turn emerges out of a childs experiences and relationships with others.

Adoptive parents can do much to repair the damage their children sustained before the placement in their family. Adoptive parents need to be attuned and patient, sensitive to the child's cues, comfort zones and particular preferences in pleasurable contact. Never use physical discipline that will isolate or separate the child from you, because this will reinforce the already disturbed attachment. You as adoptive parents should always be prepared for two steps forward and one step back.

If attachment issues are not taken care of, they will develop into attachment disorder which will take a very long time to be treated. But with a lot of patience, commitment, hope and trust you will be successful.

You as adoptive parents should be well educated regarding the possibility of your child having attachment issues or attachment disorder. Both can be treated and your child will be growing to become a loving and caring person.

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