Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Please Understand

It will probably (will) be several more months before we go get Ethan. During this waiting and inactivity, I have been stalking other AP's blogs, living vicariously through those who are moving ahead, going to get their little ones. On several of those blogs, people have been posting requests and helpful hints to family and friends in anticipation of their returns. Those blogs got me to reminiscing about our homecoming with Aiden and obviously looking forward to our eventual return with Ethan. I have been doing an evaluation about how I handled Aiden's attachment / bonding / abandonment issues. In some areas, I did pretty well. In others, though, I failed miserably. One situation I handled very poorly was my desire to be "normal" mom to a "typical" child. Considering the trauma our little guy had been through -- more in 27 months than most people endure in a lifetime -- that notion was beyond absurd. He had lived with his biological / first family for around five months. He was so ill, his heart was so weak, that they were forced to leave him on the steps of a church in hopes for a better life...maybe in hopes of life itself. For two years, he lived in an orpahanage where he was passed from care-taker to care-taker with no real consistency or continuity; where he likely cried with nobody to comfort him; where he in all likelihood did not have enough to eat; where he was cold in the winter and hot in the summer; where he was just one face in hundreds of faces. Still, that had been the only home he knew for two years when a couple of strange looking, strange sounding, strange smelling people who ate strange tasting and even feeling foods came and pulled him away from everything that was familiar and comforting to him. And we drug him half way around the world, literally half way around the world.

When we got home, well-meaning, loving people offered advice about what to do in any given situation, from letting him sleep alone, and to letting him "cry it out," to, "It's ok if I feed him or hold him; he's been home for weeks," and I responded in one of two ways. 1.) I tried hard to implement or take the advice to heart. 2.) Got defensive, frustrated, or angry because I knew this wasn't right for Aiden or our family but didn't feel like I could say anything without looking weak, ineffectual or....defensive, frustrated, or angry.

So, I wanted to share now and maybe again later some of the advice and information fellow international adoptive parents have shared on their blogs. I hope everybody will take this in the spirit in which it is intended: with love and appreciation. We have to be Ethan's staunchest advocates and focus on doing what's right for him. Remember, we really do love and appreciate you all!


1. Trust the adoptive parents' instincts. They may notice subtle symptoms that well-meaning family and friends attribute to "normal" behavior.
2. Accept that attachment issues are difficult for anyone outside of the parent to see and understand.
3. Be supportive even if you think everything looks fine to you.
4. Allow the parents to be the center of the child's world. One grandfather, when greeting his grandson, immediately turns him back to his mom and says positive statements about his good mommy.
5. Tell the child every time you see him what a good/loving/safe mommy/daddy he has.
6. As hard as it may be for you, abide by the requests of the parents. Even if the child looks like he really want to be with Grandma, for example, he needs to have a strong attachment to his parents first. Something as simple as passing the child from one person to another or allowing others to hold a newly-adopted child who is not "attached" can make the attachment process that much longer and harder.
7. Accept that parenting children who are at-risk for or who suffer from attachment issues goes against traditional parenting methods and beliefs. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues.
8. There is often a honeymoon period after the child arrives. Many children do not show signs of grief, distress, or anxiety until months after they come home. If the parents are taking precautions, they are smart and should be commended and supported!


1. Assume a child is too young to suffer from emotional issues related to attachment.
2. Judge the parents' parenting abilities. What looks like spoiling or coddling may be exactly what the child needs to overcome a serious attachment disorder.
3. Make excuses for the child's behaviors or try to make the parents feel better by calling certain behaviors "normal". For example, many children who suffer from attachment issues may be labeled as strong-willed by well-meaning family members. While being strong-willed can be seen as a positive personality trait in a child who has never experienced disruption, this type of behavior in an attachment-impaired child may signify problems.
4. Accuse the parents of being overly sensitive or neurotic.
5. Take it personally if asked to step back so the parents can help their child heal and form a healthy and secure attachment. You will be asked not to hold him. This is not meant to hurt you. It is meant to help prove to him who his mommy and daddy are. Allowing people to hold him before he has accepted his forever mommy and daddy can be detrimental to the attachment process.
6. Put your own time frames on how long attachment should take. One mother was hurt when she was chastised by a relative who couldn't understand...after all, the child had been home six months. It could take weeks, months, even years. Every child is different.
7. Offer traditional parenting advice. Some well-meaning family members will tell a new mother not to pick the child up every time he cries because it will spoil him. A child who is at-risk for attachment issues must be picked up every single time he cries. He needs consistent reinforcement that this mommy/daddy will always take care of him and always keep him safe.
8. Fall into the appearance trap. Some babies/toddlers with attachment issues can put on a great show to those outside of the mother/father. What you see is not always a true picture of the child. Even babies as young as 6-months-old are capable of "putting on a good face" in public.
9. Lose hope. With the right kind of parenting and therapy, a child at risk for attachment issues can learn to trust and have healthy relationships. But it does take a lot of work and a good understanding of what these children need

taken from

As much as I wanted to be an "normal" mom in a "normal" family, there is nothing average, typical or normal about adopting a toddler internationally. Is it beautiful, and wonderful, and fun, and rewarding? ABSOLUTELY!! It is FABULOUS, and I love it. It is, however, also unique and needs to be recognized as such. I sincerely hope this does not sound preachy or whiny or...nuerotic. ;) I merely want to inform and explain. And to say thanks to everybody who cares enough to want to help and who loves us through all of this!!


  1. Thanks for this. We are home a little less than three months, and enjoying ourselves as a family tremendously... but every day brings challenges.

  2. This is a really well-written post. I may have to do a linky thing at some point. :-) Come on, LOA!! I keep hoping for something for you guys!

    1. Thanks, and "linky thing" away! Hahaha! ;) As you can see by the citation, I borrowed it, too.

  3. Very nice. I've seen similar lists before and intend to distribute to my family / friends as well. I worry about this topic in general and whether it will cause friction, particularly because he is the first grandchild for one side of the family and I know they just want to love on the kid so badly!