According to experts in human development, there are four attachment styles: secure attachment, insecure-ambivalent, insecure-avoidant, and insecure-disorganized. Secure attachment is the healthiest form of attachment, so it is important for you to understand the best way to foster a healthy secure attachment between yourself and your adopted child.
Remember that it takes time to build a relationship between a child and their caregiver. A single good or bad moment will not determine your relationship with your child. If you have an open adoption, you may feel insecure since your child had a close connection to the birth mother during pregnancy. It is important to recognize those feelings and avoid allowing them to affect the actions you need to take to support a secure attachment between yourself and your child.
Fostering a Secure Attachment
Secure attachments are established when an infant or child feels close to their caregiver or parent. The primary way to support this type of feeling is by establishing trust. Trust demonstrates that you are there for them and will protect them if necessary. Some ways you can build trust with your child are to address their needs in a timely manner and spend quality time with them. If your child cries, respond quickly. Try to avoid anticipating your child’s needs, so that you are given more chances to respond to them and demonstrate that you are there for them when they need you. For quality time, you can hold your child, talk to them, or play with them.
To foster the best attachment style, it is important to understand how the other attachment styles may form. Children with an insecure-ambivalent attachment may seem over-attached and uncomfortable with exploring independently. This could be the result of parents being emotionally inconsistent, such as expressing different emotions when responding to a baby’s cries (e.g. warmly or in distress). It is important that as a parent you remain constant with your reactions towards your child.
Struggling with Attachment
An infant or child resistant to connection may be experiencing an insecure-avoidant attachment. This can lead to a lack of attention because parents are having trouble connecting through the usual touch and language. If your child is resistant to connection, increasing quality time through eye contact may improve the disconnect you and your child may be experiencing. Quality time through eye contact is best done while singing or playing a game, such as peek-a-boo, to prevent eye contact that may feel threatening.
Insecure-disorganized attachment is demonstrated by an infant or child that displays distress when you leave, but shows little to no signs of comfort when you come back. This is often caused by unpredictable behavior from you, the caregiver. It is important to be consistent with your behavior and reactions to your child so they know what to expect from you.
Kids will be Kids
Other things to consider when trying to foster a secure attachment include being empathetic and remembering that children experience and react to things differently than adults. If they are whiny, clingy, or throwing a temper tantrum, rather than walking away, stay with them and explain it is ok to to feel that way. You can do this without giving in, and it shows them that it is okay to express emotions.
A secure attachment is important for all children. As an adoptive parent you may feel at a disadvantage, but if you take the right actions and remain consistent towards your child, you will see positive results.