In honor of National Adoption Month I plan on starting and hopefully completing the ABCs of Adoption blog series. There are 30 days in the month and 26 letters in the alphabet, that should get me enough time.
I know that adoption starts with A but that is too obvious. For me attachment is the bigger A word in adoption. Attachment is defined as the ability to form a connection with another individual of significance. Attachment is not a given, it takes time and in some instances it doesn't occur.
Whether attachment occurs is probably the biggest worry of adoptive parents no matter which form of adoption the child comes to a family through. The concern goes both ways "Will I be able to attach to my child" and "Will my child attach to us." If there are already children in the home, whether biological or adoptive, questions on whether the children will attach and bond to each other may also be raised.
Many children from trauma backgrounds get diagnosed with attachment disorders, which can be a very scary situation. They are averse to touch of any kind, avoid eye contact, or will seem to form bonds with complete strangers instead of their primary caregiver. After years of abuse and neglect children can build barriers to protect themselves and learn not to trust. Children may also feel a sense of loyalty to their birth parents which prevents them from forming an attachment.
We have been fortunate in that junior has formed an attachment to us. We openly talk about his birth mom and encourage him to do so. We let him decide what to call us and the day he decided we were mom and dad was a very memorable day.
However we do still hear on occasion
"You're not my real mom."
"I want to be un-adopted."
"I didn't choose you."
"I miss my mommy."
"You're the worst family ever."
Does this mean he hasn't attached to us - no. Does it still sting - yes. At some point after these outbursts he comes to us for hugs and cuddles, apologizing saying he didn't really mean the things he said. Attachment during adoption can be a lifelong issue or for some families it may not be an issue at all.
Resources regarding attachment in adoption