Continuing the discussion on how adoption impacts our children, let’s talk about attachment and bonding. As I said in the beginning of this conversation, “Although we use the terms loosely, there is an identifiable difference between ‘attachment’ and ‘bonding’.
Strictly speaking, bonding is a one-way process that begins with the baby while in-utero and continues through the first few days/weeks of life. Bonding refers to the relationship a child forms with the mother or primary caregiver. Attachment is a reciprocal process between parents and their children but is affected by all early caregiver/child interactions.
Attachment must be achieved in order for the child to flourish. Time and interaction are necessary components of attachment. There are countless reasons why a child does not attach to his or her primary caregiver and the adoption process lends itself to attachment problems. Without trust and security, there is no attachment. Without steady, consistent care and a nurturing environment, attachment will not occur. The adopted child who does not experience early nurturing with a loving and trusted caregiver can have great difficulty attaching to his or her adoptive parents.”
Teaching families some tricks on how to build avenues for attaching (aka connecting more deeply) is my favorite topic! I talk frequently about the importance of connecting while traveling, especially during a Heritage Journey. In my opinion, planning time to connect with your child while on that important journey is essential to its success! But for the sake of this newsletter, I’m going to delve into a very general picture about how you can build deeper connections with your child on a daily basis. When you are ready to travel, let’s talk about the specifics related to connecting more deeply while traveling.
We know that when parents and their children are disconnected, children tend to misbehave more often and have lower self-esteem, aside from the pervasive tension that is apparent in a disconnected house. Overall, there tends to be less joy. My goal is always to create more joy and less tension so being proactive about building connections is critical! Again, building connections is building attachment.
Here are some very simple ways you can create connections immediately:
- Touch your child often. Give hugs, snuggle, pat them on the shoulder, stroke their hair, hold hands, give high fives, etc. Science tells us that touching eases pain and lessens anxiety. We all know that touch is very healing. During orgasm, childbirth or while breastfeeding, oxytocin is released– oxytocin is the bonding hormone. As adoptive parents, we cannot recreate those first moments of life but we can continue to release oxytocin. Research shows that oxytocin is also released while hugging and touching! So go release some oxytocin and build those connections!
- Does your face light up? One of my all-time favorite lines about raising children came to me during an Oprah episode when she was interviewing Toni Morrison. Ms. Morrison said, “It’s interesting to see when a kid walks in a room, your child or anybody else’s child, does your face light up? That’s what they’re looking for. When my children used to walk into the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. And so you think that your affection and your deep love is on display ‘cause you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now? But then, if you let, as I tried from then on, to let your face speak what’s in your heart. Because when they walked in the room I was glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see.”
Oprah responded, “That’s what I think is so profound because that is how you learn what your value is. Not by what the person is saying to you, but by how it makes you feel.”
Ah ha! So … every time you have the opportunity, let your face light up! Greet your children like you haven’t seen them in a week like they are the most important person in your universe. That will show them how much you cherish and value them!
- Ask for your child’s advice. When you are dealing with something difficult or trying, ask your child what he or she would do and try to heed their advice. Afterward, tell them you listened and explain what happened. When you ask for your child’s input it builds self-esteem and trust, which leads to increased connectivity.
- How good am I as a parent? This is a tough one but ask your child to rate you as a parent from time to time – and not ONLY on the good days! Zero is the lowest score and 10 is the best. If your score poorly that day, ask your child how you might improve your performance – and listen! Commit to your child that you will take their advice into consideration (as long as it’s not buying them more ice cream every day)! Knowing that you care how they feel about your parenting will let them know they are valued. Feeling valued engenders respect and a sense of security, which helps create deeper connections.
- Be present! When you talk to your child, meet his or her gaze. You know how it feels when you are trying to have a conversation with someone and they are looking at their phone. How does it make you feel? My guess would be, not very good. Eye contact communicates that your child is important; that you value and respect their opinion. Eye contact creates a sense of belonging and acceptance – which leads to attachment.
If you want to get started right away, pick one of these ways to connect and practice it for a week. Notice how it makes you feel and how you think it makes your child feel. If anyone would like to share their results, please go to the blog post and let us know how it goes! Research says writing down your successes increases the odds that you will do that activity again. Doing the activity again and again will lead to greater connectedness – it’s a big ole circle of love!
When you are ready to explore the world with your family, please schedule a 30-minute Discovery Session with me at www.calendly.com/bambi. I’d LOVE to help you design a Heritage Journey or a family trip that is focused on building connections!
Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >> http://motherlandtravel.com/