MomSense: Struggles with Attachment in Adoption


mom·sen·se (mɒm sens) noun 1.  practical motherly intelligence that is sensible or reasonable 2. a mother’s mental discernment, realization, or recognition  – She has momsense. OR She used her momsense to determine that something was amiss.


The past few weeks we’ve looked growing your family through adoption and foster care.  Now, Cate J. has some considerations if you are serious about looking into adoption: attachment.

Here’s Cate with her MomSense:

Attachment is one of the most important aspects of adoption to educate yourself about if you feel led to adopt.

Attachment Disorder is when a child struggles to have an emotionally healthy connection with their primary caregiver. Our girls are all considered “high risk” and “older (i.e. over 2 years of age).” Every loss in a child’s life is a potential for struggles with attachment. Just the loss of a birthmother for a newborn is enough to permanently scar a little heart. But the more they have, the great chance for struggles. These can include: unwanted pregnancy, drug/alcohol exposure in utero, loss of birthmother, loss of first home, depravation, malnutrition, abuse, loss of culture, loss of language, multiple caregivers/foster homes, institutions/orphanages, etc.  Without intentional parenting and sometimes therapy, these wounds can have lifelong and devastating impacts on these children.  Our children coming from international orphanages, have several of these risk factors. Two of my three children have struggled and one immensely so to attach.

Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child,  says only about 1/3 of adopted children have seamless transitions into their forever families.  That does not mean that children cannot heal and go on to have brilliant futures, but it does mean it will take intentionality on the part of the parents.  A girlfriend that is also parenting a child from a hard place, and I know how isolating and challenging this road can be. We have since started an attachment support group and blog.

Although each of my children has been a beautiful blessing, parenting a child who rejects your love is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  The pain on their hearts comes out in anger and challenging behaviors.  Making it through the hard days takes a great deal of research, support, time, and sacrifice.After years of research and hands-on therapeutic parenting, here are few ways to help a child struggling with attachment:

1. Begin reading the Bible to them and praying for them and with them, even as babies

2. Don’t leave them. They need to be no more than 3 feet away from you most of the time for the next 6 months.  I often think of the children from Haiti that lived through the earthquake this year.  They not only had the added stress of that and surviving until they could travel home, but their care takers were also stressed and overwhelmed.  That is a lot on a little heart.  They need simplistic schedules and your consistency. If you can, tell them over and over in their native tongue: “I won’t leave you” and “you are okay now” It is taxing on the mother especially but extremely important time in the child’s life.

3. Co-sleep.  If you can tolerate it, let them sleep with you.  The night is great unused time for teaching them to regulate.  Your sleeping child will actually begin to regulate their bodies (in their sleep) to your peaceful body and calm breaths.

 4. Do NOT potty train! Let them be in pull-ups/diapers without pushing it for 6 months.  It will come.  If they need it, let it be an awesome time for you to communicate how mommies care for their babies.

5. Persevere. They will be in transition shock for 6 months.  Not much really absorbed (+/-) into their hearts.  Remember you will not be the first or the last to walk this road.  You don’t need to walk it alone.  And all that you do for these little ones is so worth it.  You are impacting the future of a child forever.  That is one of the most beautiful things ever.

6. Read The Out of Sync Child and The Connected Child. (I would consider urine analysis and sensory evals as well as the normal checkup with blood work, checking for parasites/anemia/etc.)
7. Watch the Connecting Link and other videos.