Theater-style masks showing insecure and secure attachment

Two Words: Attachment Insecurity

Trying to do everything right

I never imagined that two words, “attachment insecurity,” could have such a distressing and at the same time life-affirming effect on a person. My son already carried a diagnosis thought of as hard-to-parent. I felt like I was already there, bearing that heaviness alongside him. We had endured some of his most challenging behaviors to date. And although I could easily feel hopeless, I kept telling myself, “it’s OK, you’ve done everything they told you to do.” I attended every parenting class offered to us. I scrutinized message boards and articles for any outlier opinions on parenting a child who joined a family through adoption. I read so many books on attachment. From the minute he was mine to parent, I rocked this child while he cried. I wore him in a carrier  until he was 30-some pounds (resulting in a herniated disc… but that’s another post!) We sought therapies and were fortunate to have the privilege of early intervention for our child.

Two words: attachment insecurity

Yet here I was, grateful that this big meeting at the school had come together. Finally, we could address what more everyone could do to support my son as he navigated toward the dreaded teen years. We started out by addressing the usual issues of sensory processing disorder, social dysmaturity, and impaired executive function. I wondered if we were getting anywhere. Then I heard two words from his psychologist, who had seen him a few times a month for the past five years. I don’t remember exactly how it came up. I do remember those two words: “attachment insecurity.”

A new path

I couldn’t do anything but focus on those two words. All I could think was “I haven’t done enough,” followed by “I didn’t know.” That started a whole new journey for our family, especially for my son, who joined our family when he was just 24 hours old, who had never known any other day-to-day parents except for us. We discovered how real trauma can be for any child parented by someone other than their biological parent. Those two words moved us forward toward discovering new ways to help him make secure attachments. This is something I never dreamed I would have to do with a child adopted at birth.

In writing to come for the ATN blog, I hope to share some of that process of helping my son find the felt safety he needed not just to survive but thrive–at home, in school, and with family and friends.

–by Tammy Herbert

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