Family Helper > Post-adoption > Attachment and the Adopted Child

and the
Adopted Child

By Robin Hilborn

First edition, 2006
$12 / ISBN 0-9733470-7-4


Graefe / Attachment: a core issue
Smart / Four stages in the attachment cycle
Bayless / Behaviour of the unattached child
ADSR / Causes and symptoms
Bayless / Needs of the child
Flanders / "Dear teacher: I'm not a bad parent"
Becker-Weidman / Activities to help attachment
Gray / Encourage a strong bond
Hopkins-Best / Attachment and toddler adoption
Webb / Theraplay for a healthy parent-child relationship
Trenberth / Three comforts for the afflicted
    Smart / When it becomes too much to handle
Smart / PTSD in parents
Gallant / How I became a Therapeutic Mom
Smart / Couples need strength
Combs / Challenge to your marriage
McCreight / Ten ways to survive the tough times
Kupecky / Do sibling rights trump attachment?
Lametti / Review, "A Child's Journey Through Placement"
NAIC / How to find a good adoption therapist
Hilborn / Attachment Resources

How to order Attachment and the Adopted Child

Occupational therapist Jennifer Smart edited an issue of Post-adoption Helper in May 1998 titled Attachment Disorder. For this update, Robin Hilborn has kept 11 of Jennifer's articles and added nine new ones. They tell how children form attachments, define the causes and symptoms of poor attachment, and suggest activities to create a strong bond with your child. "Parents under stress" are not forgotten, and couples will find ideas for coping with a tough family situation.

Where to go for help? Robin includes a helpful guide on "How to find a good adoption therapist" and a list of attachment therapists in Canada and the U.S.

As Jennifer said in 1998, "With professional counselling, assistance in becoming a 'therapeutic parent' and ongoing support, you have every reason to be hopeful for positive and lasting change in your child's behaviour. Then your family life will become much more enjoyable again, as it was meant to be."

See below for an excerpt from Attachment and the Adopted Child. To order, fill in this form and send with your cheque to: 220 Summerhill Rd., Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada.

Please send me one copy of Attachment and the Adopted Child (#48). I enclose a $12 cheque to "Robin Hilborn".
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Price in Canada is Can$12. In the U.S., US$12. Elsewhere, US$18.
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Robin Hilborn is publisher of the Family Helper series.

Attachment and the Adopted Child (#48) is also available at a discount ($9) when you order four or more titles from the Family Helper series. See the form at Family Helper, and choose the editions you'd like to order.


From Attachment and the Adopted Child

Activities to facilitate attachment

By Art Becker-Weidman

Children who are adopted after the age of 6 months or so are at risk for attachment problems. Normal attachment develops during the child's first two years of life. Problems with the parent-child relationship during that time, or breaks in the consistent caregiver-child relationship, prevent normal attachment. The severity of attachment disorder seems to depend on the number of breaks in the bonding cycle and the extent of the child's emotional vulnerability.

Emotional vulnerability can be affected by such factors as: genetic factors; prenatal development including maternal drinking and drug abuse; pre-natal nutrition and stress; Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; temperament; and birth parent history of mental illness (schizophrenia, manic depressive illness, etc.). One thing is certain: if an infant's needs are not met consistently in a loving, nurturing way, attachment will not occur normally.

Touching, rocking, eye contact, movement and physical closeness all will facilitate developmental attachment. Any activity that encourages reciprocity (such as pat-a-cake) and emotional attunement is helpful.

1. Peek-a-boo with hands, blanket, hood of jacket, from behind a door.
2. This little piggy went to market with fingers or toes.
3. Comb the child's hair facing each other while commenting on color, texture, shape, and form.
4. Washing child's face, bathing child.
5. Lullaby singing. Cradle your child so that eye contact is maintained while you gently rock child and sing. Be sure to put child's name and descriptions of the child's features into the song whenever possible.
6. Push that Button. Gently press on the child's nose, ear, finger, toe, chin, etc. and make a noise such as "honk", "beep", or "toot." Then have child copy your actions.
7. Blow raspberries on child's arm, leg, belly, cheek.
8. "Pop" cheeks. Fill your mouth with air and gently guide your child's hands to your cheeks to pop out the air and make a sound. Then do the same to the child.
9. Singing and rhyming couple with movement. Bouncing, dancing, rocking, moving arms or legs, fingers, etc. Simon Says games.
10. Rubbing lotion onto child's hands, feet, arms, or legs.
11. Playing with clay or shaving cream together to make shapes.
12. Tower of hands: alternate hands and then move bottom hand to top of pile.
Dr. Art Becker-Weidman, CSW-R, PhD, DABPS is director of Center for Family Development in Williamsville NY, He may be reached at

How to order Attachment and the Adopted Chld

Infertility Adoption Adoption Resource Central Post-adoption Family Tree
Contact: Robin Hilborn,
220 Summerhill Rd., Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada
Copyright 2009 Robin Hilborn. All rights reserved
Updated   Apr 13, 2009

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