6 Easy Ways to Create Attachment in Foster Care/Adoption from Dr. Karyn Purvis
Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child, is nothing if she’s not practical. Her practicality is one of the things I like best about her—she gets that parents are busy and often don’t have time for “pie in the sky” theoretical questions.
When I interviewed her for the Creating a Family Radio show on Raising and Healing Abused & Neglected Kids, we received a question asking for practical advice for a busy mom to use in helping to deepen her attachment with her child. Dr. Purvis was ready with her tips.
6 Easy & Practical Ways to Create Attachment in Adopted/Foster Kids
- Meet Needs. Your #1 goal is to find out what your child needs and do your best to meet these needs. The best way to find out what she needs is to ask her. Dr. Purvis says she often uses this exact language: “I’m a sure thing. Tell me what you need.”
- Say Yes. Focus on saying yes to your child, more than you say no. Every “yes” puts trust in your child’s trust bank. Your goal should be is to say 7 “yeses” to every 1 “no”.
- Make Eye Contact. Look your kiddo in the eye every chance you can and encourage your child to make eye contact with you. Our eyes speak louder than our voices and can express so much love and warmth. Get on your child’s eye level when you speak to them, even if your knees creak and you grunt when you stand up.
- Touch. Touch your child affectionately and often. Pay attention to your child’s cues as to whether they feel safe being touched. If your child resists touch, use a “symbolic touch”—reaching out to child, but stopping short of actually touching them. Some kids need us to ask permission before we touch them.
- Mirror behavior. Parents and children in healthy homes match each other’s behaviors naturally. When an infant coos, the parent coos back; when a toddler laughs, her parent laughs too. These matching behaviors build trust and attachment. Older adopted or fostered children have often missed out on these matching moments so parents must be intentional and consistent in creating these opportunities. For instance, your child is playing on the floor with blocks, you can match that child’s behavior in play, by playing with the blocks in the same manner alongside your child.
- Follow. Allow your child to be the play leader for a specific period of time. Teach your child to use a timer and have him set it for 15 minutes. During that time he has your undivided attention without the laundry, the TV, or your phone distracting you. He decides what you play, and you match his posture and type of play. If he’s on the floor making a track for his cars, you get down on the floor and ask what shape track piece he needs next. Being the play leader gives your child power and a voice—both crucial for creating trust and attachment.