As an adoptive parent or foster carer, you may find yourself struggling with difficult and puzzling behaviours by your children. We may imagine that if only we love them enough, and give them time and patience, the child will grow to love us and feel secure. But in reality, many normal parenting strategies do not work.
Adopted and fostered children and their parents and carers face unique emotional challenges. Being prepared to tackle these issues can mean the difference between a healthy or a hurtful family life. For many families, this involves the parents learning intentional new ‘therapeutic’ approaches to parenting.
What is attachment?
Research is increasingly showing that the way a child is treated in the early years of their life can be really important and can influence the way they relate to other people.
Attachment develops when a baby instinctively turns to their caregiver for safety and comfort, and the parent or caregiver protects and cares for the baby. Attachment is the profound and deep connection established between the child and caregiver in the early years of life. It’s a basic human need, and secure attachment is the foundation for healthy physical, emotional and social development. Children with secure attachments have the foundation they need to form a sense of themselves as lovable, worthy and capable.
‘Attachment issues’ is a phrase used to describe a variety of behaviours which may arise after a child has lost his or her ‘primary carer’, often the mother, and has experienced emotional abandonment in early years. Even children adopted in the early days or weeks of life can suffer from attachment difficulties due to this early and fundamental loss. This experience can manifest itself in many ways. Children can become overly anxious to please, desperate to do anything to avoid being abandoned again. Some express their chaotic feelings in chaotic behaviour. Others turn in on their own pain and withdraw, unable to relate to others. They may act in some of the following ways:
- Lack of appropriate eye contact
- Poor impulse control
- Indiscriminate affection
- Weak cause and effect thinking
- Superficial charm
- Concrete thinking
- Lack of ability to give and take
- Poorly developed conscience
- Clingy and demanding behaviour
- Developmental delays
- Extreme control issues
- Persistent chatter and questions
- Abnormal eating patterns
- Cruelty, severe taunting
- Problems with wetting and soiling
- Ability to split partners
- Poor peer relationships
- ‘Crazy’ lying
- Unhealthy interest in violence, death