Wednesday, 27 January 2021
I Didn’t Recognize My Child’s Attachment Problems Print
Someone asked me how a child who seems attached as a very young child could then grow into attachment problems. Our youngest daughter, now 9, was adopted from China at 23 months. She definitely had some adjusting to do; she was older and truly put into some temporary shock over the trauma of adoption out of her less-than-desirable world in China to her incredibly different life with us. Still, after about 4-5 months she seemed to be doing well. She appeared relatively happy, came to me readily, and went to sleep fine in the room with her older sister (also from China and then 5 years old.) My younger daughter looked very attached to me. She came only to me when afraid or hurt. She acted pretty much as a toddler should act.

She had a cleft lip/palate. Her lip was repaired in China, but she's had eight subsequent surgeries since arriving home. Four months after coming home her palate was repaired. That helped us bond further as I never left her side.

Eventually we put her in preschool; we were encouraged to do preschool for her speech needs. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I shouldn't have done that. What's done is done. The first preschool required me to remain with her…which was good. We put her into a second year of preschool at a Montessori which was the best type of school for her, although I didn't realize it at the time. She wasn't expected to toe a rigid line in regards to schedule and she mainly chose her own "lessons" at the various learning centers each day. She first went twice a week, then three times the next year. She did kindergarten at Montessori and then I brought her home to homeschool along with her sister. At six years of age, during kindergarten, she began becoming more defiant and started not falling asleep well.

At ages 7-8 she really couldn't go to sleep until she had literally thrashed about in the bed, chattering about everything, nonsense or whatever. We had to give her her own room because she didn't allow her older sister to go to sleep. It usually took her two full hours of thrashing about and talking until she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. It didn't matter if I slept with her or not.

By age 7 1/2 her behavior was really going downhill. She argued and cried and got violent in her anger. She wanted to kick and bite and scream. Things were bad. I didn't know what to do with her. She started having tantrums/rages over the slightest things. I was really frightened for her. No usual parenting techniques worked. We had raised three bio children successfully and had also adopted an eight-year-old daughter twenty years ago from the state foster care system. We had terrible times with her requiring respite care so I could survive. (We had no one able to advise us and there were so few resources available back then). I was so scared that this youngest daughter was becoming just like that first daughter.

Thankfully, another homeschool mother told me about neuro reorganization work at the same time someone else told me about the success she was having with attachment counseling. The attachment counseling was teaching that mother new skills and methods in dealing with the outrageous behaviors of her two Chinese daughters, also quite young. I looked up neuro, and then the counseling center therapists. We got started one year ago with both interventions. After over a year of despair, watching my daughter’s behavior go downhill, I was going to do anything that could help. We are doing both those interventions with good results.

Our younger daughter grew up into her anxieties and it manifested in her behaviors she simply had no control over. Her trauma of abandonment, terrible orphanage experience, and the shock of adoption all caught up with her. Looking back I can see what I missed with her:

1. She didn't want me out of her sight. She would beg me to stay with her at preschool, even in kindergarten.

2. She couldn't fall sleep. After a long time of excusing the behavior—figuring that it was her own individual body clock showing--I admitted to a niggling fear that something was wrong.

3. She started to bug, annoy, provoke her older sister to tears. I can see now it was beyond the normal sibling stuff. But I excused it then.

4. She would become very agitated and wound up when out in public or when I left her at home. Instead of becoming more and more able to be out in crowds or different places other than home, she grew up into more and more inability to handle those things.

5. She started to want to kick, hit, scratch, bite. She hadn't done that as a toddler, at all.

After starting therapy with attachment and neuro, I felt a huge weight lifted off of me. My instincts had been right, after all! Those behaviors weren't normal. They merely showed that she was not able to handle her anxieties and that she was "anxiously attached to me,” not normally attached.

As we expected more maturity with her chronological age and put her into places or situations where a child her age with a normal, healthy past and development would be able to handle it, our daughter’s behaviors progressively showed her lack of normal development. And, she has regressed more since therapies started. I now give her a bedtime bottle while rocking her and telling her a story. She stays with me (!) 95% of the time. I never put her away from me…for example, no time outs away from me. I try hard every day not to raise my voice with her or take a scolding tone. All those things are threats to her that she cannot tolerate. I feed her sometimes. She loves all the baby things I do with her. I bathe her after she has played with all her bath toys, like a toddler would play with. No joke. But she is healing, however slowly. But surely. I hope that this helps to explain the question of a child deteriorating with growth sometimes.

Since starting neuro work with our younger daughter, we started our older daughter as well. Both are in attachment therapy. All of a sudden the things pointed out to me about my older daughter made sense. For example, her desire to control everything and everyone. She's obedient and compliant, but she wants to do everything her way (!) and has since she was able to express herself. She was never cuddly or openly affectionate, and lacked eye contact when in close quarters. The atopic dermatitis she was seriously plagued with all her life was also a sign of a compromised neuro system. After a year with therapy, she's COMPLETELY free of that dermatitis. No more lotions, ointments, prescription meds. She is less controlling, more able to express herself emotionally. She's showing more spontaneous affection, although I doubt she'll ever be the cuddly type, which is fine. Looking back, I can see signs with her I didn't realize were actually symptoms of attachment disorder. Best wishes to all.

–Linda (a. 8 mo, 23mo, OR)

Written by Guest on 2009-02-18 18:45:48
I don't mean to sound skeptical...but I am. Don't you think some of this could be because you took her out of a Montessori preschool which she loved and thrived in and took her to home school her in solitary.  
I have two adopted daughters and I have seen many kids labeled by adoptive parents for something they did to them not something they came with....just a thought.
Written by Guest on 2009-04-10 08:12:09
The comment above just goes to show that there are many parents out there who DON'T GET IT!  
The author is stating that her daughter's issues were there early-on, but she didnt see it.  
Follow your instincts, moms! This could be written about MY daughter, except that she is still in preschool & is freaking out when its time for me to leave. She has rages & cannot handle social interactions well. I am now looking into neuro-reorg. Thanks for a great article!
not sure of my role
Written by Guest on 2009-04-21 12:59:27
I am trying to learn about attachment - its difficult because its a family member adopting so I'm the relative coming over that could possibly make judgements that are hurtful and want to make sure I am not ignorant - I want to help, but not sure how, so thank you for the article. I'll be sure to follow the parents lead - moms know best.
I applaud . . .
Written by Guest on 2009-05-07 01:13:36
All of the moms and dads who allow their children to enjoy the very early nurturing (rocking, feeding, etc.) at older ages. To the moms whose daughter "freaks out" when you take her to preschool, I suggest using transitional objects. You could tie a simple string around her wrist (and yours) as a reminder that you will be thinking about her all the time she is in school. You can rub your wrist on hers after you spritz on your favorite perfume in the morning. Then she can carry your scent with her to remember you throughout the day. Send photos to school with her that show the two of you giggling with each other or making loving eye contact. These will all help your little girl to hold her connection with you even when you are not together.
Article is a warning for me...
Written by Guest on 2009-06-13 00:33:21
As I read your article, I recognised many similar situations, that I experience with my lil girl too.. I will try on different appraoches with er.. no time outs...
yes, sometimes we don't realize...
Written by Guest on 2009-07-24 12:38:35
I'm learning so much about attachment now, a little late for my 23 & 26 year old daughters. We did think "love is enough" and it is NOT. I want to shout from the roof-tops to adoptive families to get with an attachment therapist and "heal their hearts." The things my daughters went through late teens/early 20's (and still in some of the issues...) might have been prevented IF we would have known. Get help! If they are healthy and attached and their brain is okay - it won't hurt, and it definately WILL help. Helps the mom, too ;)
Thank you
Written by Guest on 2009-09-05 15:04:53
Thank you for sharing this. It's always good for us to be on the lookout for attachment issues, even when we assume everything is going well. I appreciate you sharing your story.
Written by Guest on 2009-10-03 09:45:50
Just curious about neuro-reorganization. I went to an attachment specialist with my son, who was adopted at 16 months and is currently 3 1/2, to an Attach therapist last year at this time. She gave us various "exercises" to do which we tried to do, but my son was not very receptive and I ultimately stopped doing them. Is this the neuro-reorg people are discussing here? I feel in many ways like my son continues to have rageful episodes, sometimes he can go days doing fine, and then he'll have days where everything is a crying/screaming episode. he does sleep well though and we always rock him before bed. he does like to be close, have eye contact, and does go to a little mother's day out 2x's per week, but I still worry about the crying/screaming whenever he can't do something, or doesn't get something he wants or from frustration.
Thank You!
Written by Guest on 2012-06-18 21:50:02
Im about in tears now after reading your story. The "Anxiously Attached" part is exactly what I would describe my daughter as. She doesnt want to leave me or me leave her, but at the same time, she's so angry at me though I havent done anything to upset her. She began living with us about 21/2 years ago & came from a neglectful home. Her anger didnt start showing up until the past year. She was a relatively good toddler, but has now become so unruly that our home is in constant uproar and our older kids dont want to come & visit. Im hoping therapy will help since I know she cannot be happy living like this. Praying for all the parents & kids that are struggling with this attachment disorder. Good luck!

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