Attachment in Adoption is a Two Way Street

Dawn Davenport


500048151_5dcb941ee4_nI loved, loved, loved the Creating a Family show this week on Helping Your Adopted Child Heal from Trauma and Loss. The guest, Carol Lozier, a therapist specializing in adoption and foster issues and author of The Adoptive and Foster Parent Guide, is one wise woman. Of course I always love it when someone is making a point that I’ve long tried to make, and one of her many gems of wisdom is one I’ve been preaching for a while– attachment is a two way street. (The truth, dadgummit, is that she did it better than me.)

Parents Need to Attach Too

We talk a lot about helping our kids attach to us, and often overlook the fact that parents also need to work on attaching to their child. Although this is necessary with all kids regardless how they came to be ours, it is especially important with adopted kids, and even more important if you are adopting a child who comes with a history that you haven’t shared. (I suppose all adopted children have a history we haven’t share, but I am specifically referring to adopting children past infancy.)

Four Styles of Parental Attachment

Parental attachment follows the same four general styles of attachment –secure, ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized. Carol gave a simple “test” we can use to determine our attachment style with our child.

How do you feel in that first moment when you see your child after a separation?

For some reason that simple question gives me goose bumps. My prayer for all children everywhere is that they have at least one person in their life whose eyes light up when they walk in the room. That ought to be a birthright.

The good news is that just like we can help our kiddos improve their attachment to us, we can also help ourselves to improve our attachment to our kids. And, given that we are the adults in the situation, it should be easier. How to improve parental attachment was beyond the scope of yesterday’s Creating a Family show (sounds like a great topic for a future show), but I know for me what seems to work is to look for similarities (we both like clothes shopping), appreciate the differences (once he is able to direct all that energy there will be no stopping that boy), and making sure that at least once a week you do something with your child that is fun for both of you.

OK, that’s my summary, now what has worked for you?

P.S. Check out Carol Lozier’s website, Forever-Families, and Facebook Group. She is a great resource for adoptive and foster parents.

Image credit: z6p6tist6

05/10/2012 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Fostering, Fostering Blog | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Attachment in Adoption is a Two Way Street

  1. Terri Cb Terri Cb says:

    SO TRUE!!!!

  2. Kim Stover Hartz Kim Stover Hartz says:

    My family is beyond blessed to have Carol as our therapist. I don’t take it for granted!!

  3. Pat Irwin Johnston Pat Irwin Johnston says:

    Clearly (to me), Dawn, it begins by acknowledging one’s own attachment-related and family-building-related losses. These losses remain when a child arrives by adoption and they can and do affect our own ability to trust (which is at the center of attachment). These losses also often make us feel diminished in some ways–and so unable to trust ourselves, let alone another, to do what will need to be done to lead this dance. This is “head stuff,” some of which we can do by ourselves, but some of which will be better managed with help from an attachment-experienced therapist.

  4. Pat Irwin Johnston Pat Irwin Johnston says:

    I’m with you here. I often do a stand-alone workshop called The Dance of Attachment and sometimes incorporate this into a longer presentation too. I was long sharing my mother-in-law’s experience of multiple lost pregnancies and neo-natal death and then the death in childhood of their first adopted child to help parents understand their own roles in challenged attachments. Then, in her book Nurturing Attachments, Deborah Gray introduced me for the first time to a tool designed to help social workers assess parents-to-be attachment styles and work on their issues before placement. Few agencies are using it, but I think it could be incredibly important!

  5. Avatar Barry says:

    I like this “2 way street article”.

    I wonder how often “failed adoptions” are first a one way failure on the part of the parents – then the kid has no chance in that relationship/home.

    I think selfishness is the major enemy (in all relationships). We have 5 kids. 2 of them are particularly selfLESS. I dread the day when they stop living in our house – it will be extra sad. One of our kids is particlarly selfish. We love her just as much – but it won’t hurt so much when she gets out on her own.

    Selfishness is the enemy. In parents and in children.

  6. Avatar Catana Tully says:

    Very interesting podcast with Carol Lozier last week… Very interesting website, by the way!
    Your discussion topic was right on the money on many levels. A child, separated from the birthmother will always grieve that separation. There will always be a profound sense of abandonment. As with every individual, and that is mentioned throughout your podcast, the behavior of an adopted child is often perplexing to the new parents. Is it their home: nurture? Is it genetic: nature? What adoptive parents should be aware of are the subliminal messages the child receives and interprets according to its own understanding. These can come from just about anyone (including them) and there will be nothing they can do to intercede them. Most often those interpretations will not be spoken about because the child is ashamed of its adopted situation. That was my case although I grew up truly privileged and certainly much loved; my parents could not have known how I interpreted what I heard. Talking about some issues half a century later with my considerably older German adoptive sister, left her at times dumbfounded and speechless. I am pleased that there are many avenues that offer White parents of what I call ‘exotic’ children ways to interact openly with others about their situation.

  7. I loved Kim’s point about making” LOTS of time for playing together and having mutually enjoyable experiences!” It’s funny how easy it is to forget that parenting should be enjoyable. Have fun with your kids!!!

  8. Kim Dillen Kim Dillen says:

    You also have to be the type of parent that a child WANTS to attach to…as in playful, loving, engaging, curious about misbehavior but certainly not screaming about it..and make LOTS of time for playing together and having mutually enjoyable experiences! I think it’s VERY important for new adoptive parents to understand that they need to rearrange their lives/ schedules around the needs of the child and not expect a child newly in their care to fit into their possibly hectic and busy lifestyle.

  9. Pat, what have you found that other parents have done that works to improve their attachment to their adopted child?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑

Content created by Creating a Family. And remember, there are no guarantees in adoption or infertility treatment. The information provided or referenced on this website should be used only as part of an overall plan to help educate you about the joys and challenges of adopting a child or dealing with infertility. Although the following seems obvious, our attorney insists that we tell you specifically that the information provided on this site may not be appropriate or applicable to you, and despite our best efforts, it may contain errors or important omissions. You should rely only upon the professionals you employ to assist you directly with your individual circumstances. CREATING A FAMILY DOES NOT WARRANT THE INFORMATION OR MATERIALS contained or referenced on this website. CREATING A FAMILY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS LIABILITY FOR ERRORS or omissions in this information and materials and PROVIDES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, implied, express or statutory. IN NO EVENT WILL CREATING A FAMILY BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, including without limitation direct or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages, losses or expenses arising out of or in connection with the use of the information or materials, EVEN IF CREATING A FAMILY OR ITS AGENTS ARE NEGLIGENT AND/OR ARE ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.