I just read this in a group we are a part of on Facebook. Perhaps it will be useful to you if you are bringing home a child anytime soon (or if you didn’t know this still applies to our family). These are the words I was looking for! (Thanks, J.W.N)
______ been in an orphanage for the past 6 years, with little meaningful adult contact. She’s a remarkably adjusted and lovely girl, but she’s learning a lot right now about families and relationships. Right now, as far as emotional relationships, the only thing _____ and I have over any stranger on the street is about 2 months of time. We don’t have a long history of fixing her boo-boos, proving our trustworthiness, and providing for her needs. Without those memories in her “bank”, we’re pretty interchangeable for anyone else that can provide a few months of clothes and food. That parent-child trust and attachment take a lot of time. For many of these kids, as they start to feel that attachment develop, they actually get scared. They don’t want to trust an adult so deeply when so many adults have failed them so miserably. So they push away and look to invest themselves more lightly in other places rather than really attaching to the family. I’ve personally known a family where their kids have run away after 2-3 months to go stay with a friend’s family or their new aunt&uncle or grandparents because they were scared of the emotional connection they felt developing. They couldn’t explain that until later, but that was part of it.
I love you all (I’d say love you like a sister, but most of you ARE my sisters). I know _____ will also love you. But it’s not me being selfish when I say I need her to love ME MORE. It’s for her best interest to learn to love her parents and learn to count on a reliable, loving, consistent parent. She needs to know that she can always confide in me, trust me to help, trust me to have her best interest at heart, and trust me to provide for her needs. This means lots of perhaps strange things.
First: always have my back. Always. If you disagree with something talk to me privately–I’ll screw this up a lot and appreciate advice–but don’t go around me. This goes for totally silly stuff like letting her have a snack or purchased item if I said no, to letting her complain too much about life in our family. If she complains that something is unfair or miserable or whatever, let her vent, but please don’t AGREE. Try “that sounds really frustrating” or “I can tell you’re upset. What do you think would help?” but not “you’re right, she’s the worst. I would never do that!” etc. I can’t emphasize how important this is.
Second: we need her to think of our house and home as her base. We’ll come visit you all as a family, of course, and meet up at places…but we’d like most visits and get togethers with her cousins and friends to be at our house. She needs to feel rooted here.
Third: Let us be the main source of the good things. Kids from orphanages and hard places don’t know how to measure love so they count gifts and compliments and degrees of physical touch and assume more stuff = more love. We’ve missed out on 16.5 years of birthdays and Christmases and treats and snuggles. 16.5 years of telling her she’s loved and special and beautiful and cherished. All kids like to hear that from other adults, too, of course, but we all build that core up from our parents. At holidays and birthdays, please check with us for gift suggestions so you don’t “out-do” us. Let her hug and snuggle, but if it starts to seem overly sweet, please encourage a reasonable boundary. We need her to know that we are the MOST love. Tell her she’s beautiful, or that something looks pretty on her, or that she’s smart and clever and funny and witty (she is! I know!) and give her a hug or a shoulder squeeze. This one is hard to really define—but let us be the parents that fill her up with love. You can be the cool aunts and friends that reinforce it.