Adoptive families working through attachment issues often feel alone. It doesn't have to be this way though.
The communities around them want to help, yet they usually don't know how to help when it comes to attachment issues.
A little perspective can change all of that.
Upside Down shares stories from dozens of families healing through the spectrum of attachment issues, from general attachment concerns to reactive attachment disorder. It demonstrates ways adoptive families can explain these often invisible special needs to the community around them, and also shows how these communities can provide support without causing more damage to a hurting child and further isolating the families working so hard to heal them.
-the reality behind the rose-tinted movies;
-the why behind the weird limits;
-the tangle of community;
-what adoptive families really want besides coffee;
-sample letters for care providers; and
-links and further resources.
The message of Upside Down is two-fold: adoptive families are not alone, and the communities around them can be equipped to make sure they never feel that way again.
Many people have asked us, "Why have we never heard of this?" We've asked that, too.
After some time to think about it, I came up with a few reasons:
Anne of Green Gables. Oliver Twist. Rose-tinted made-for-TV movies and other media about adoption.
I love Anne. And I love Charles Dickens. But the books are always better than the movies, and unfortunately people imagine adoption to be like the movie version, Disney-fied.
Attachment issues might be unheard of because most people have never been through the process of completing a home study in order to qualify to care for children who have endured abandonment, grief, and trauma. Attachment issues are often considered the most difficult disability to live with. Part of that is simply because what people see on the outside is not the reality in the home, and the parents feel like people won't believe them if they talk about it. Or that others will judge them if they do talk about it. Or that they will make adoption look bad, their own parenting look bad, or their child look bad.
There's a lot of fear to deal with. The children fight their own fears, and the parents fight an entirely different set of fears. Our relationships change. Our lifestyle and social lives change. Our involvement in the community changes.
Everything turns upside down, and it is incredibly difficult to know how honest and transparent we should be about it.
We want to be truthful. But we also want to protect our children, their story, and our family as a whole. We want to protect and encourage the adoption process.
We have no idea how to merge all of those realities.
And we all do it differently. Some people share a lot, some don't share anything. In our own family, in our blog, in about three posts a month, I share less than five percent of what goes on in our home. There's just too much; it's too raw, too repetitive, and too personal to give any more information.
Also, attachment as a special need is a relatively new concept in the realm of adoption and foster care. Most families who dealt with these issues ten years ago had no term for it.
Even in more recent years, it's possible to know nothing about attachment issues if a person doesn't intimately know any adoptive or foster families. Or maybe they do know these families, and their experiences have been perfect, ideal, and rose-colored. I'm sure it happens. They might be perfect parents with perfect children.
Or maybe, life has been very un-perfect and the parents have dealt with this quietly, and cried behind closed doors, knowing that most people don't understand and many won't even bother to try. Maybe they think they are alone. Maybe they are alone, and desperately in need of support and prayer.
Maybe they are pioneers, bravely, persistently, and painfully plowing the trail that others – including us – have tried to follow. It's easier for us because of them. Some of the dirt and snow has blown over the path and we still have to dig, but we can see where their tracks went, where they had to double-back, and where they found a truer course.
They have made the way much easier for us, enabling us to be a little more vocal about our own experience while they had to learn in painful silence. We share our experiences with others, praying they will find understanding, safety, and hope.
Because this is no Disney movie, friends. This is our story. And it's not finished yet.
shannon guerra is a lifelong Alaskan who stays warm by running around after her seven kids and drinking ridiculous amounts of tea and coffee. She passionately believes in God's extravagant love for humanity and His desire to speak and move through His people. She and Vince have been married since 1997, and they enjoy hiking, watching movies, ministering through prayer, reading, and snapping each other with kitchen towels, to the shocked amusement of their kids. Shannon writes in (mostly) complete sentences at copperlightwood.com.