What We're Reading: The Connected Child

As counselors, we read a lot.  We read books for parents and books for kids.  We read books about parenting, about development, about eating disorders and attention issues and depression and a host of other topics we’re confronted by every day in our counseling offices.  (We also try to read a few fun books along the way, too!)  We often run across books we believe are must-reads…books that will help parents dealing with a specific issue, books that will help a child see from a new perspective, or books that we believe will really enrich the life of your family.  We want to start sharing those books with you.  So, from time to time, we’re going to post “What We’re Reading.”   This is our first installment, based on our go-to book on adoption, The Connected Child.

Several years ago, I was meeting with a teenage girl who I believed had crossed over from a state of prolonged sadness to clinical depression.  I wanted her mom to take her to see a psychiatrist to research if it was time for her to start taking medicine.  After talking to the girl about the possibility, I brought her mom into our session to explain my concerns to her.

The mom sat, with tears in her eyes, listening to her daughter talk through her feelings over the past several months.  When I brought up the word depression, the mom let out a big sigh.  She said, “Well, you know it does run in our family.  Your dad’s side and my side both have a history of depression.  And I’ve struggled with it at different times over the years, too.”

This daughter turned to her mom, smiled, and said, “Mom, remember that I’m adopted.”

The mom laughed, hugged her daughter, and said, “I ALWAYS forget!”  

It was honestly one of my favorite moments in 22 years of counseling.  It still brings tears to my eyes to think of it.

It’s what every parent who adopts a child longs for…that feeling of connectedness where you know that your child is your child is your child, no matter who birthed him or her.  However, it can sometimes be hard to get there.  You bring a little baby home and aren’t sure where to go next.  They’re just not attaching like you hoped they would.  As they grow older, they’re having a little trouble physically, emotionally, and/or behaviorally.  

Well, have we got the book for you!  Our favorite book on the subject of adoption is called The Connected Child.  It offers much wisdom for those who are preparing for the adoption journey or have welcomed children home.  It offers practical suggestions, advice, and hope for your family.

One of our favorite concepts is that of “felt safety.”

The book outlines what fear looks like when it’s in control of your child’s behavior:

“A fearful child focuses strictly on survival issues such as…

  • Safety
  • Hunger and thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Escaping scary situations
  • Making hurts stop and go away
  • Staying in control

A scared child cannot grasp…

  • Discussions, sermons, or lectures
  • Complex reasoning, logic, or stories
  • Philosophical discussions or abstract concepts
  • Solving puzzles or mathematics

The primitive brain’s ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ fear response can make a child…

  • Run away and hide
  • Lash out physically and verbally
  • Get angry or cry
  • Stonewall and become unresponsive
  • Try to control the situation

Remember:  Fear will bully your child into poor behavior.”

The authors go on to describe felt safety and the need to develop a trust account with your child.  They say to never withdraw more than 20 percent of that trust account.  It’s a good thing to remember with every child.

Do you see fearful responses in your child?  What are you doing to build trust in your family?  What might you be doing that erodes trust?  What could you do differently? We’d wholeheartedly recommend this book to any adoptive parent.  Every relationship is a work in progress.  We’re all growing—as a family, you’re growing right alongside each other.  Do something today, whether your child is adopted or biological, that creates more felt safety and builds more of the trust that’s foundational to the life and connectedness of your family.