After a year and a half of waiting, praying, longing, hoping--- little Shepard is on his way home! We are overjoyed at God's grace, but we also realize this will be a season of adjustment for our family. We know that each of you receiving this letter has-- in some way-- supported, loved and prayed for us. Because we know your care for Shepard and our family, we want to share with you some information that we hope will best equip everyone around him to assist us in laying the strongest and healthiest foundation – emotionally, physically and spiritually.
In many ways, Shepard will be like the children who entered our family through birth; we will seek to bring all of them up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. But there will be a few, initial differences in the way we have parented in the past.
We are confident of this: God’s design is PERFECT! His plan for parents and children is a beautiful and meaningful picture of His love for us. Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need and communicates that need. The primary caretaker (usually mommy) meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom nurses & calms the baby – which teaches her that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God’s very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will, ultimately, give children a trust for and empathy towards others.
Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother and father at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. Shepard has experienced the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of his birth country. When Shep comes home, he will be overwhelmed. Everything around him will be new and he will need to learn not just about his new environment, but also about love and family. He has not experienced God’s design for a family in an orphanage setting. His world is turned upside down. He may struggle with feeling safe and secure and he may lack the ability to trust that we will meet his needs. The good news is that we can now, as Shepard’s parents and forever family, rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds.
The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to be the ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe and feed him. As this repeats between us, he will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once Shepard starts to establish this important bond, he will then be able to branch out to other, healthy relationships. Shepard will have, what may seem like, a lot of structure, boundaries and close proximity to us. Although it may appear that we are spoiling him at times, we have been advised that it is best that we meet every need quickly and consistently. He may show his grief and confusion in many ways, and we are prepared to help him through it and prove that we are a forever family. You may also notice us tighten our circle a bit, stay close to home, and we may seem a little less available socially, for a while. Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on our personal research and instruction from trusted adoption mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help him heal from those interruptions in attachment as effectively as possible.
Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an awesome and vital role in helping our Shepard settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:
The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with Shepard. This will (for a while) include things like holding, excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone – which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses or high fives are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! Shepard should know that the people with whom he interacts are our trusted family and friends.
Another area is redirecting Shep's desire to have his physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having us meet them. Orphans often have so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are “very friendly” but this is actually something that isn’t good for the child. To share this is difficult for us because you have openly loved on our other children and we have loved on yours as well, and treasure that connection. Please understand that we want nothing more than to have Shepard hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you. But until he has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct him to us if you see that he is seeking out food, affection or comfort.
Also, please feel free to ask us any questions at any time. We are learning, too, and are grateful that you are seeking with us to help Shepard feel loved, safe, and secure. We are incredibly blessed to have so many loved ones around us. We couldn’t ask for a better extended family & circle of friends for our precious Shepard. Thank you so much for your love and support over the past year. We are truly blessed!!!
Mark & Buffi