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Friday, May 4, 2012

Our Attachment Plan

As we wait for our travel call any day now, it is very important for us to prepare our family and friends of what is to come and inform you of our attachment plan. Although we are very excited to meet Jack and finally have him home, he is about to go through one of the hardest things you can ever go through.  If you have had a 16 month old or know of one, imagine if you will, you are that child. This is an example of what might go through your head:

You have had a family (foster mom (Omma) and foster father (Appa), and two foster brothers) for as long as you have known.  Even though this family has loved you and been there for you, you do not understand that they are not a permanent family...you just love them like they are. Then one day, two strangers come into your home.  They look very different than anything you have ever seen.  They smell different and speak a language you cannot understand. They are hugging you and kissing you, but you don't know why. A few days later, you meet that same couple again, but this time they are taking you away from the only family you have ever known and you are scared and very upset.  You finally fall asleep and then wake up and cry out for your Omma! The strangers are there now and Omma never comes. You are then contained on a 14 hour flight, all the while, you are searching and grieving for your family. You reach out for others to take you back to your family and resent these strangers for taking you away. You finally arrive in a foreign land, where the sights and smells are different. You arrive at the place they call "home."  They feed you strange foods and sing strange songs.  They don't do anything like Omma and Appa.  They don't seem to understand what you want or they don't know what makes you feel better.  You miss your family.

Of course this just an example, but it is very common for an adopted child from Korea to feel these things. We do know that Jack is very attached to his Omma and Appa, and has stranger-anxiety. So Bryan and I are prepared for the worst case scenario, but will be praying for the best. :) We feel that it is good to communicate this to our loved ones, so they can be prepared as well and to know how to pray for us and support us during this time.

So, what's this plan of ours?

Well, our main goal is to establish a strong attachment with Jack. We want him to know that WE are his forever parents. That we will always be there for him and will always love him. Based on what we have learned through many books, countless hours of research, and numerous conversations with adoptive parents, we have come up with our attachment plan.  The following ways are recommended to help Jack cope with his grief and to help promote healthy bonding/attachment to us.

Our Attachment Plan:

1. Be The Primary Care Givers.

Let me get the hardest one out of the way first. ;)  Bryan and I are to be the ONLY caregivers for Jack. Meaning we are the only ones that will be allowed attend to Jack's needs. This will include changing, feeding, bathing, and even holding him. I know that this might be hard for some family members to hear, as  you want to hold him and help us with things (believe me, we will probably need the help). But it is best that Jack learns quickly that Bryan and I are his parents and that no one else will take him away again. We have even read that an older adopted child may reach out to others, just to test us (his parents) to see if we will still be there for him, making it very difficult, especially for loved ones, to turn him away.  Unfortunately, though, we would ask that you try to resist the urge, and do not hold him, even though I know it will be hard. ;)

2. Small World

This biggest part of promoting attachment of an older child, is to try to keep his world small.  This would include a limited amount of visitors.  Many sources recommend that newly adoptive parents of older children shouldn't have any visitors. However, Bryan and I feel that we have way too many people that have supported us in this journey and are so excited for us, that we can't find it in our hearts to withhold our Jack from them. ;) As long as the visitors are only a few at a time and the visit is kept as brief as possible, we are okay with it.  I promise it isn't that we don't want you there. We are so excited to be parents and want more than anything to show our Jack off and have other people enjoy getting to know him too.  We just have to take it slow for his sake. We promise, once Jack is ready, we will have a huge party where all friends and family will be invited to meet Jack and celebrate his coming home!

3. Routine

Another part of keeping his world small, would be that our regular routine might have to be put on hold for a while.  We aren't sure what this will entail for us until we have Jack home.  But it is possible that Jack could become over-stimulated by going out and doing things. He may reach out to strangers (so they would bring him back "home" to Korea) and become confused by where he is. Being exposed to other people and environments may cause additional stress on him and may prolong his attachment to us. So, we might have to keep him at home a lot, until he trusts us fully. It is recommended that we stay at home as long as possible. We should live as hermits for a few weeks and establish a home routine to help with Jack's anxiety.  They even recommend not working if possible, but that isn't possible in our situation. Bryan may work from home the first week as much as he can, but he won't be able to continue it. Luckily though, I will be at home with him (Praise the Lord!). So, for now, no church, bible studies, play dates, or even grocery trips.  Anything our regular weekly routines used to consist of, may have to be given up for a little while.

We don't know how long this will take, because every child is different. We are just letting God lead us by way of our monitoring how Jack is responding. Once we see Jack has established a healthy bond with us, we will start allowing others to hold him and venturing out into the world.

4. Communication

One big thing to help with bonding is to be able to communicate. Bryan and I will be trying (trying is the key word) :) to speak Korean to him especially at first. We have several phrases we are learning now. Also, we will incorporate a little sign language along with Korean too to help bridge the the gap of Korean and English. Children pick up sign language fast, and this will help Jack be able communicate better if he cannot remember the English word. Hopefully this will avoid some inevitable frustrations.

5. Food

Sometimes internationally adopted children have a hard time making the transition to American food and sometimes they don't. A lot of Koreans don't handle dairy very well, because they don't eat it much there. Jack very well may be lactose intolerant.  We will be cooking some Korean food and slowly incorporating it within American food to help with this transition. Another unexpected thing we will be doing is formula feeding. Koreans feed their children formula well past the one year mark. Jack could be used to 4 to 5 bottles a day still. It is recommended that we continue to feed him his bottle, especially for bonding purposes. Lately though, some foster families in Korea are starting to ween their babies off early now to help them be prepared for their American families. We will see how this goes. If he is still taking a bottle we will continue for a week or two, but probably transition him off slowly, once we get him.

6.  Sleep

In Korea, babies sleep with their foster parents in their beds (mattress on the floor). Jack does not know what a crib is and will most likely not like it. Bryan and I have gone back and forth on what we want to do with this situation. It is recommended that we co-sleep with Jack. Sounds easy enough, but we know it isn't. Bryan and I don't sleep soundly already, and if we have a child kicking us throughout the night, we will not be happy campers in the morning. Throw in some jet lag the first week home, when the child is up all night thinking it is time to play, and you have a disaster on your hands! ;) We decided that once we get home, we are going to try the crib the first night. Some children have done very well, but some have not. But we thought we would at least try. If it doesn't go well, then we would put a blow up mattress in the nursery and Bryan and I will take turns sleeping in there with him, so he doesn't feel scared. Every night or so we would move the mattress closer and closer to the door until we are out in the hall way and then eventually back in our wonderful bed! If he attempts to climb out of the crib, we will make it a toddler bed. If all else fails, he will sleep with us in our bed. Even if I don't get any sleep, I know it is short-lived. I'll just have to look at it as it's just catching up on extra snuggle time with my baby that I've already missed. ;) Just remind me of this when we have him home. ;)

7. Carrying Jack.

We have already mentioned that we will be the only ones to hold Jack for a little while, but another part of that is that if you see us out or come over for a visit, you may find us using our carrier. In Korea, babies are constantly carried. The mothers cook and do housework while the baby naps on their back. This isn't just for little babies either. Jack is still being carried, so he will be used to it. He will most likely be soothed if we put him in the carrier. Being close to mommy and daddy in the carrier also promotes attachment. I don't know how much I will be able to do, because of my bad back, but I will do as much as I possibly can, especially if that is what Jack needs.  So, if you see us carrying around our 16 month old "baby" in the carrier, know it's to help Jack's bonding to us, and we aren't spoiling him. ;)

8. Discipline.

This is a difficult topic to discuss, but I feel I should mention it.  Jack is a toddler and will most likely act up and test his boundaries. But sometimes his behavior will be associated with his adoption. I have read a variety of sources that address this subject and there are several different approaches we could take, but all of them agree that disciplining an adoptive child can be different than disciplining a biological child.  Spanking or just sending them to time out, will simply not work on a child that is hurting from adoption.  Jack, and especially older adopted children, have experienced a major loss in their life that many of us could never understand.  He has lost his foster family and his biological family.  He has lost all he has ever known and some of his behaviors will be acting out against this loss, now and throughout the rest of his life.  Bryan and I have always taken discipline very seriously and had a plan of discipline set for when we were to have a child. But now that we are adopting, there are several other factors we have to consider when addressing this matter.  We are unsure at this point of what exactly we are going to do and will be praying about it constantly. But I am sure, with God's help, we will carefully observe his behaviors and try to figure out what the best means of discipline will be. Until then, please be patient with us and pray for us as we figure out how to best deal with our child when he behaves badly. ;)

All of this will take time as I'm sure you can understand. Once home, we will keep everyone in the loop on how Jack is doing. A lot of the above is worst case scenario, and we may have a totally different experience with Jack. With God, anything is possible! However, we also know that God may want us to have a different experience in order to fulfill His plan. Regardless of what is to come, we will finally be parents to the most amazing Korean boy in the world, and with God's guidance, we can get through anything. Thank you all again for your support and following us on our journey to parenthood. We continue to ask for your prayers as we prepare to go to Korea soon and once we are home and officially in parent mode! :)

1 comment:

  1. Wow! So many things to consider! Annie and I are excited for you guys on this great adventure of having a son! Eating Korean for the rest of your life would not be so bad. It may even be better for you :) Dairy isn't all that great anyway...except in the form of ice cream and yogurt!!!
    Can't wait to meet him.