The single most important thing that parents of a newly adopted child focus on (besides just enjoying the fact that this child is finally with them) is attachment. This is not something that parents who have a child biologically generally give any thought to because healthy attachments tend to come naturally between parents and a biological newborn. But the path to healthy attaching between parents and an adopted child includes intentional actions and interactions.
Trust is number one. “Developing trust and security is the first building block in children’s social-emotional development. Children with this foundation have more positive relationships with their parents, learn more easily, get along better with peers and manage conflict better than children without this foundation.”(Patti M. Zordich, Ph.D)
So how are we creating an environment that is conducive to building trust and security? One way is through cocooning. Cocooning is an important action plan that adoptive parents do to help develop a trusting, secure and strong relationship with their new child. It helps the parents become familiar with the child, his/her temperament, abilities etc. But more importantly it helps the child adjust to a new home and family.
There are several aspects of cocooning but the one providing the most impact (and often most challenging) is to do what the word implies: create a bubble in which you and your child remain in as much as possible: keep your child with you at all times and stay home as much as possible, keep all outings with your new child to a minimum and seriously limit interaction between your new child and anyone (particularly adults) who is not part of your immediate family (often this includes grandparents). The amount of time that people choose to cocoon varies and can change depending on how parents see things are going, but generally a minimum of 6-12 weeks is recommended. Time to stay put, avoid over stimulation and focus on meeting your child’s needs and at the same time teaching them the idea of families/parents and who their mom and dad are.
So that’s what we have been up to for the last 5 ½ weeks since Leyson has come home. Leyson has left the house only a handful of times; Tracey the same. Larry worked from home for the first 2 weeks. Leyson is learning to understand that he is safe with us, that we will always be there for him and that he can count on us to provide everything for him. He is learning that there are behavioral boundaries, that there is a hierarchy of sorts in a family setting and that part of trusting is also obeying. He is beginning to learn a new language, becoming accustomed to so many new experiences (like sitting at a table to eat) and starting to learn things that you would assume a 2.5 year old would already know how to do (like respond to a question and not simply repeat the question). He is learning how to count and play with toys. He is learning to accept, give and enjoy hugs and kisses. And he is learning to come to us when he is in pain or needs assistance.
Slowly we will increase Leyson’s exposure to the world around him. Yesterday he went to church for the first time and he did well but we will not be leaving him in a nursery for quite sometime. Tracey also did not stay around to chat but brought him to the car to avoid any more stimulation from meeting new people. The end of this week there will be a small social gathering with some of Larry’s colleagues and their children. Maybe this will be another interaction we will introduce Leyson to.
Pray with us that this intentional ‘therapy’ will produce a positive lifelong influence for Leyson.
We are happy to answer your questions about International Adoption, bonding and cocooning.