Thursday, August 28, 2014

Concerning Foster Care: 5 Tips for Relative Attachment

Attachment is not something I've talked about much on this blog.  But if you are a foster or adoptive parent I'm sure you will not be surprised to hear that attachment issues are something we struggle with every single day.  Thankfully things have gotten much better-especially in the last six months. For those who do not understand what attachment is then watch this video by Karyn Purvis.  Also, check out some other amazing resources from Empowered to Connect.

Please Note: We are BLESSED to have the family members we have.  They have been accepting, caring, and supportive.  We know many, many families that enter their foster care journey with family members that greatly oppose them, others have opposition grown as things progress.  We are so fortunate that this has NOT been the case for us.

Attachment is a two way street.  In foster care or adopting it is obvious that your child struggles with their relationship with you.  However, for me, it was a harsh and humbling reality to realize that I struggled with a relationship with my child.  I remember the day it dawned on me that if I struggled with this then of course our family members would struggle with this.  I have a feeling that with how great our family members are (see above note), if I saw them struggling to attach to our children then there are a lot of grandparents and aunts and uncles who are in the same boat.

If you are a relative of a foster or adopted child and you are struggling with your attachment to them, please note that you are not alone.  The parent raising that child is having an extremely hard time also.  That child themselves is struggling to relate to you.  There are other grandparents and aunts and uncles who find themselves in the same situation.  Reach out.  Research.  And be willing to work at it.  It will be a blessing to these kids parents to see you try.  Here are five things you can do to strengthen your relationship with that child.

1. Find a hobby or interest of the child's and invest in it.
Does this kiddo like trains?  Take him to your local train station.  Does this child enjoy books?  Make sure you have a few when the visit your home.  Do they love to build with legos?  Sit down and build a set with them.  15 minutes of undivided attention can do wonders in helping you relate to this child.

2. Be interested in the child's life.
Know what grade they are in, find out their favorite and hardest subject.  Attend their t-ball games or call them after one to see how they did.  Understand the diagnosis they've been given and what that may look like in that child (but also know that they are more then a diagnosis).  If they are sick send them a get well card.

3. Understand why the child's parents are disciplining the way they are.
If you are a grandparent (or any relative) please know that your child is not going to discipline this child the way you disciplined them.  You may not like the way the discipline, you may not agree with it.  Before you start to tell them what they should do, find out why they are doing what they are doing.  The lack of eye contact probably isn't a respect issue, but a trust and fear issue.  That tantrum probably doesn't mean the child is a brat, but most likely stems from sadness (masking as anger) or fear.  And spanking a child probably isn't going to correct the problem.  Instead it will probably make the fear and distrust grow deeper.

4. Pray for that child. 
Ask the child's parent for specific prayer request for both the child AND for their birth family.  I find that when I pray for a changed heart in my child, my heart is most affected.  If you want to grow closer to a child become their personal prayer warrior.

5. Fake it till you make it.
Hearing this from an adoptive parent has given me permission to not always be the perfect mom.  Sometimes I don't want to love my child.  Sometimes it just seemed to hard.  However, if I can put on a smile and hug them even when I didn't want to I slowly feel the walls in my heart break down.  You may struggle to see them like the other children, born into your family.  Do NOT let them know that.  Fake the affection.  Fake the interest in their activities.  Choose to treat them equally, even when you don't feel like it.  When you couple that with prayer your love and attachment for that child will grow as the walls break down.

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