Three little words that I whisper into their small ears throughout the day. I look into their eyes and say, “You are special and strong.”
A few years ago, my husband and I met our first son in a crowded, busy hospital lobby. He was just 3 days old. His dark eyes peaked out from under his hospital cap and mesmerized us. It was a long ride home, but once we were there, we held him close and rarely let him go.
After a few years, we were ready to grow our family again and were overjoyed to meet our second son, 2 days old, several states away.
It is difficult to imagine our lives without these boys or the connections we have with their birth mothers and first families.
Families formed through adoption sometimes face challenges in understanding, communicating and connecting with one another. Prenatal stressors, trauma of separation and hardships endured in first families can affect our children and how they respond to us and the world around them.
My husband and I realized fairly soon after adopting our first son that we needed to parent differently than a lot of friends and acquaintances around us. For example, nighttime cry-it-out methods, unfamiliar babysitters for parents’ night out and even the use of timeout for perceived misbehavior were not going to work for us.
We were navigating the adoption realm and still trying to figure out what was right for us as parents and for our children. As I read and studied about parenting approaches, I learned about Attachment Parenting and discovered that this model seemed to support our parenting goals by encouraging connection with our children while communicating love, safety and respect.
Forming a strong attachment with our sons became our goal, and before long, we were busy savoring skin-to-skin moments among other elements of Attachment Parenting.
When our first son was about 6 months old, we found our cosleeping groove and ability to connect throughout the night. We have been bedsharing ever since and now have both of our sons with us overnight. Cosleeping helps foster a bond between my sons and I that wasn’t necessarily formed in the womb but can be made strong now as it allows us to relax, sense and trust one another.
As our boys get older, we are constantly learning and looking for resources that will foster our parenting skills and allow us to maintain connection while trying to understand how our children are feeling.
So now when my 3 year old cries, throws himself on the ground and refuses to comply with whatever I have just asked of him, I have tools beyond threatening words or actions that will let him know that he is safe, his feelings are valid and heard, and I am going to work with him to find resolution.
Along the way we have had to make lifestyle changes that affect our personal social lives. Not everyone understands why we parent this way, and that is okay. We parent in the best way we can for our boys.
For us, that means striving for a connected family. Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting support us in raising confident children…purposefully connected and loved within our family.