If I handed a baby to you, the infant would likely snuggle face first into your shoulder for comfort.
That’s not how it was with my colleague John Fuller’s youngest son. They adopted him when he was nine months old. Even as a baby, he would physically turn away when he was held. He’d accept chest-to-chest and back-to-chest snuggles, but never face-to-face.
That’s how deep attachment issues in adopted children can run. Many children who have lost their parents in some fashion suffer from a sense of rejection and lack of emotional connection that reaches to their soul.
John and adoptive parents like him will agree with you that it’s tough. You want your actions to say to your child, “I love you. Let me show you how much.” But that’s a difficult message for many adopted children to “attach to” and accept.
Attachment issues in general arise when children have grown up in families or environments of trauma. They’ve experienced neglect and abuse. For many, “normal” is an orphanage where there’s a revolving door of temporary people in and out of their lives. They’ve never experienced the warmth and comfort of a loving caregiver. They’ve never known what’s it’s like to really love and trust someone.
That’s a simple explanation of what’s happening. But for parents living through it, it’s not so simple. You’re frantically trying to break through your child’s defenses so they’ll feel your love, but they’re not fully receiving it.
Like John Fuller, Shannon Guerra knows firsthand what those struggles are about. She and her husband Vince have seven children, two of whom are adopted. She’s written a wonderful book called “Upside Down: Understanding and Supporting Attachment in Adoptive Families.”
Shannon says most adoptive parents worry that if their child is distant it’s because of a flaw in their parenting. On our broadcast “Understanding Attachment Challenges in Adoptive Families,” Shannon encourages fellow adoptive parents to remember that love is a verb, not a feeling. A detached child can push you to doubt yourself, but with God’s grace you can work through it. She’ll share practical and helpful ideas for doing just that.
I hope you’ll join me for my conversation with Shannon Guerra on your local radio station, online, or on our free phone app and find her book in our online bookstore.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you of our Wait No More program which seeks to address the plight of orphans in our country, those in foster care particularly. Psalm 82:3 says, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute” (ESV). That is what the Wait No More program delivers.
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