We adapted this letter from Show Hope and Andrea Young. Andrea wrote it for her own adoptions and it has been used by adoptive families and now even Show Hope – an organization founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, which makes a huge difference in the lives of orphans and waiting children around the world – especially China! We should have sent it sooner as most adoptive families are encouraged to send it out before they travel…but we are a little behind over here!!!
Philip is an awesome and smart child. But he also shows all the signs of children who have been institutionalized – including food issues as well as being overly charming and kissing/hugging to all adults he is around – even if he’s just met them. Thanks for reading this and, if you’re around us frequently, assisting us in establishing a strong and healthy parent/child relationship with Philip.
This is new territory for us too, so please don’t be afraid of “messing up” – just ask us if you have a question and we’ll figure it out together. We are taking each day as it comes!
We are grateful to God that He specifically chose Philip to be a part of all of our lives and that He will equip us each step of the way to raise Philip (and all of our children!) to have healthy relationships with each other and with Him!
Thanks for joining us in this adventure.
Dear friends and family,
We wanted to write to let you know a little about what this transition period is going to look like for our family – and how you can help!
Because our son is new to us being his mommy and daddy, we will have some strict boundaries for the first few months. If you’re someone who we will see regularly at home, church, our just out and about, please take the time to read these thoughts on attachment:
Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need, communicates that need, and a primary caretaker meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom nurses and calms the baby – which teaches him/her that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God’s very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will ultimately give children a trust for and empathy towards others.
Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother and father at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. For our son, he is about to experience the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of his birth country. When he comes home, he will be overwhelmed by this loss. Everything around him will be new and he will need to learn not just about a new environment, but also about love and family. He has not experienced God’s design for a family in an orphanage setting. His world will turn upside down. He may struggle with feeling safe and secure and may lack the ability to trust that we will meet his needs.
The good news is that, with the Holy Spirit, we can now, as his forever parents, rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds. The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to be the only ones to hold, cuddle, instruct, soothe and feed him. As this repeats between us, he will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once he begins to establish this important bond with us, he will then be able to branch out to other healthy relationships.
Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on personal experience, research, and instruction from trusted adoption mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help him heal from the early interruptions he had in attachment as effectively as possible.
While some of this may seem like overkill or even sound a little bit crazy, we hope that you will understand and trust that we are doing this to give our little one an ideal environment to become a secure, well adjusted, and confident little boy. We can’t give an exact timeline on what this will look like or at what point I’ll say that he is “attached” to us. This takes time and every child is different. We hope and pray that this transition will be smooth, but given the huge amount of new sights, people, and experiences here in America, we don’t know what to expect.
Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an incredible and vital role in helping our little guy to settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:
The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults who are around Philip limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with a young child who you are around frequently. This will (for a while) include things like holding or excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone – which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses, high fives, or a pat on the back are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! He should know that the people with whom he interacts are our trusted friends.
Another area (probably the biggest as we’ll be keeping him close to us for the first few months) is redirecting his desire to have her physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having us meet those needs. For example, if his water is just out of reach, hand it to us first to hand to him, or if he asks you for something, say “let’s go get your mommy/baba” – same goes for if he falls down or needs a shoe tied, etc.
Former orphans often have had so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are “very friendly” but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. Please understand that we want nothing more than to have our son hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you. But until he has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct him to us if you see that he is seeking out food or comfort from anyone but us. It is totally fine to let him hug you, but please don’t pick him up or hold him on your lap.
Also, please feel free to ask us any questions at any time. We are so grateful to have a community of friends that will help our son feel loved, safe, and secure. We couldn’t ask for a better extended family and circle of friends for him. Thank you so much for your love and support over this adoption process!
Anna, Wes, Rand & Philip