“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis
― C. S. Lewis
I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)
Thursday, April 29, 2010
My Thoughts on Attachment
I have been thinking about posting this for a long time, but I was worried about response. I don't know why I do that. I just do...... But it is still on my mind, so here goes:
If you don't read my posts often, I am mom to 7 children. Our first 4 children were boys. One was full term, three were preemies, born at around 30 weeks gestation.
My first husband and I divorced. I will not give the details here, just that it was a traumatic event for everybody involved. My children had no father.
I remarried, after 3 1/2 years. My wonderful husband Mike, adopted our sons.
Then, when our youngest son was 19, we adopted our first daughter through the foster care system. She was 5.
Then, we adopted a year later, a little girl almost 6, who was from Ukraine.
Then, we went TO Ukraine and adopted her best friend 10 months later.
So, all 7 of our children have had trauma issues, adoption issues, and really have had varying attachment issues.
Before I understood what attachment issues were, I knew we had some sort of problem with our 3rd son Joseph. I never connected that him being hospitalized, for a few weeks could effect him, but it did. And THEN, what really effected him, was ME being hospitalized for almost 2 months. He was not the same when I left the hospital and went back home.
In fact, all of them, were clingy, but he is the one who didn't recover quite so easily.
He is also the child who is very, VERY sensitive. And this is what brings me to this post.
We have 3 very different daughters, all who have experienced EXTREME trauma.
Being taken away by the police, and going from foster home to foster home is traumatic.
Being born and abandoned, not being touched and loved, living in a TB Sanitarium (dungeon) and finally an orphanage and then being adopted and having that adoption disrupt, is EXTREME TRAUMA.
Being born and abandoned and being in a "left to lay" room for her first 4 years, and then being transferred to an orphanage, and finally being adopted at nearly 8, is EXTREME trauma.
Yet, they are all flourishing.
We did our homework. We studied and studied. And some of what we studied made us cringe. Is it true that you have to use tactics like "strong sitting" or "forced holding" to make a child connect with you?
I tried to put myself in that position of being forced to hug a person I may not want to, and it made me feel nauseated. If I didn't TRUST somebody, why would a therapist think it was ok to force me to hug them or be held by them?
That doesn't make any sense to me.
Ok, it DOES make sense, if you are only thinking that by EXTERNALLY controlling another person, their heart will eventually line up with what they are doing on the outside..... I think this is false and dangerous.
Can it work? Maybe. But why would we want to do that?
I can understand the idea of limiting things for a newly adopted child. Too many things can overwhelm. Too many choices can overwhelm, and can backfire. I know when I get overloaded with too much in put, I cannot function well. How much more is that true for a child on stimuli overload?
I think as parents, many times, we want our kids to heal, NOW. We want them to just get over the past and move on. After all, we are good people. We are doing everything we can. So what is their problem?
Back to putting myself in my kid's shoes. If I were a little kid, and had never been able to trust anybody. Why would I trust me? I went and looked in the mirror. WHY SHOULD I TRUST YOU???
I was looking at my expression. Am I frowning or do I have a welcoming look?
Do I look happy or grouchy? I was making all these faces to see what somebody else might see. Frankly, if I were a little kid, and didn't know me... some of my faces might be scary.
Noted something to work on. Looking inviting. Looking welcoming. Making sure my face lines up with my mood. :)
Of course parents have to be parents, by leading and guiding, and we cannot give in to every whim of our children. But sometimes I think we make our no's so many and our yesses so few, we frustrate our children unnecessarily.
Instead of waiting for our children to ask for something. Why not be pro active and provide it? Why not get them a 2 dollar ball that will bring them joy? Why not have a snack ready for them BEFORE they ask? Why not help them with their bedroom to get it clean or help them put their clothes away or help them make their bed? Why not help them put shoes on if they are frustrated? Why not help them pick up toys by singing a fun song and coming along side to show them how?As you help them, they will learn to do it WITH you. This is a form of bonding and attachment. Why not try and keep our no's few and our yeses many? Why not?
Why do we have to be drill sargents?
Feeding them, comfort foods, giving them a bottle of warm milk, rocking them, are ways to facilitate attachment. I think they work much better than forcing a child to talk about things they don't want to talk about and then give somebody a hug.
This is one of the huge issues I have with formalized counseling. There are so many different people out there, who hang up a sign and call them selves a counselor. They have the degree. Therefore that makes them a good counselor. NOT!
Our children are not to be experimented on. Try this? Oh that didn't work, well try that? It is horrifying.
How about treating them like you want to be treated? How about getting to know them?
I didn't get to know my husband overnight. I learn something new about my children every day.
I have to study what makes each one of them tick. What are their thoughts ? What are their feelings? Who are they? What has shaped them? I don't like to make assumptions.
If we assume we know somebody elses feelings, they can feel stomped on, and why try?
I don't know if I am being clear or not.
I am not against counseling. I am against most counseling that aims at a child and forces them to face things they are not ready or prepared to face.
They have their whole lives to come to terms with past issues. And you know what?
Many times those issues resolve themselves.
If we keep telling our children,"YOU MUST DEAL WITH THIS NOW" and not just let them learn to trust first, I think we remain in a flux of trauma that they can't get out of. It is almost like a trap that will induce anxiety and inflict more trauma.
I could see with my own girlies, that if I were to require they talk about something they weren't ready to talk about, it would shut them down totally. I don't see why we would then try to force them to talk. Some would say, "it is a control issue". Well, maybe it is. But can't a kid have control on how they feel? Do we have to take that away from them too?
Maybe WE are the ones with the control issues? Sometimes, I think we unnecessarily induce the rages in our children, by being confrontational, or impatient. A typical child may not respond in an external rage when they are "manhandled", but I can tell you from personal experience, there is internal rage. Just learning to control the external does not change the heart. And I certainly don't want my children to feel so "controlled" that they cannot express themselves to me.
What I have experienced over the years, is that both in my own life, and those of our 7 children. When they are ready, they will talk. And it doesn't surprise me at all, that some of how they felt, they didn't know why or understand why, they just knew they felt it. I would never want to put words into their mouths and tell them why.
It may not be why!
I can only lead them to the source of all healing. I CAN do that. I CAN guide them. I CAN love them and help them learn to trust me, through example.
They WILL come along eventually. It may be just a little at first. For our little Sarah who had so many hurts and reasons NOT to trust, I just love it when today, 5 years later, she trusts me with her most personal secrets and feelings.
She didn't do this at first. In fact at first, we didn't even cuddle.
I could not just pick her up and expect her to reciprocate a hug or snuggle.
She was more stiff. She would try, but I could sense it was too much for her, so we used lots of distraction, like painting toenails or counting fingers etc. She was VERY independent, and took care of herself! Number one FIRST! In working with her over the years, much of that behavior has subsided and she is a real true integral part of the family, showing love and care for everybody. But it didn't happen over night.
I keep hearing that love is not enough. It is spread all over the news. If you are talking that "Love the emotion" is not enough, then, I can agree with that.
But true LOVE is not just an emotion. It is the action of doing what is best for the other person, and yes it is enough. It will not fail. It will eventually reach the most wounded heart, because we are designed to be loved. It is just that some of us are convinced we are not worthy of that love.
I guess, this is a long ramble to say, our children will attach, when we give them the room to do so. We cannot have expectations that will hold our children to this litmus attachment chart. They are people; complex little people. They need to be respected too.
Our children can do much more than survive. They can THRIVE!