Chat Transcript: Attaching in Adoption: An Online chat with Deborah Gray

Chat Transcript: Attaching in Adoption: An Online chat with Deborah Gray

Attaching in Adoption:
An online chat with Deborah Gray

Ann Downie: Hello I wanted to say I really love your book, [Attaching in Adoption]. My question: Our 20 month old has been home 6 months. She is very jealous of her 7 year old brother. What do we (including brother) need to do to encourage attachment

Deborah Gray: She is still having trouble like many do because they have a hard time getting used to sharing attention.
Many of these children feel attention is scare because of where they came from.
Look at your little girl in the face, then clearly tell her we love our boy too so be nice to your brother. Please don’t her bat at him. When she screams as he gets attention tell her firmly but kindly, “We love you both.” Continue to give him attention in front of her but save your biggest reactions for when the two of them are interacting positively.

Robin E.: While in China should both my husband and myself feed her or me since I will stay at home with her.

Deborah Gray: It doesn’t matter
Sometimes if the child has been fostered first they will reject the mother. Be prepared for this as it can feel devastating.
But after the intitial shock wears off you’ll get your turn
Attachment between your child and you will take time. But you have lots of time. The first few days just concentrate on being as senstitive and soothing for her as much as possible.
Do whatever it takes to calm her down even if your husband does all the feeding.

lesliep29: We’re having a lot of problems with our daughter who’s 13. She says she wants to get removed from our family. We have regular blowups. How can we help her express her anger in a less damagi
Deborah Gray: This normal at this stage

She’s grieving and has not accepted the finality of the loss of her birth parents. Support her grief and let her know that you’re very sad with her that she didn’t have the opportunity to live and stay with her birth mother. Be sure she understands that this isn’t a choice she can make — She can’t reject you and go back to China.
Ask the caseworker who did the placement to visit
describing to your daughter the limitations of her options.
Get the caseworker to help her become reality based
Rather than arguing about it with her — get the casewroker to come and do this as a post placement cap.
Children who have lived within institutions don’t understand anything about the way the world works. They have no understanding of life except inside the instititution.
Many times they think someone is coming and when they finally are placed. They also think someday they will go back.
She needs to work with someone who is not a family member around these issues maybe with the help of an interpretor.
lesliep29: Deborah, thanks. I understand better now. I’ll have to work on helping DH to understand it. He’s the one who gets the brunt of the anger. Her English is actually very good. How honest she’s being with her therapist is another matter.
Deborah Gray: Ask for some family sessions with the family therapist. It seems like she may be “stuck”.
Robin E.: How do we help an infant grieve?
Deborah Gray: [9-16 months] These infants have alarms at leaving their care givers. Sooth them and calm them down.
It depends on the individual child with what the grief reaction will be . Children tend to lose their regulation when they lose their caregiver.
Do a lot of soothing and comforting in all areas of their daily life’

Nancy: I adopted my now 18 month old when she was 10 months, how do I know she is attached?
Deborah Gray:

  • Does she reach out for you
  • Does she try to stay close to you
  • Do yher eyes follow you around the room
  • Does she try to show you a toy or an accomplishment
  • Would she rather be with you then others almost all the time

There is a check list in my book “Attaching in Adoption
At this long in the home you should see she’s preferring the parent to others. This is where you should be able to begin to see it

keri: Please describe “high structure” parenting as you refer to it in your book
Deborah Gray: High Structure parenting is informed by knowing that children feel best if their enviroment is consistent highly nurturing and predictible. HSP only gives children the number of choices that they can really handle. As children grow into the ability to handle more choices then the structure is loosened. Initially the structure helps them tremendously in learning how to take advantage of a possitive environment rather than using control
or poor choices to gain attention or to gain priviledges.
The structure insures the positive choices, priviledges and attention.

Deborah Gray: It’s been a pleasure to be with you this afternoon but I must leave now . I hope to be back in a few months to see how everyone is doing.

Deborah D. Gray, MSW, MPA author of the 2002 book Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today’s Parents is a clinical social worker specializing in attachment, grief, and trauma. She enjoys helping children and their parents in situations where deprivation or attachment losses make attachment formation challenging. In her private practice with the Attachment Center Northwest, parents are usually present in the therapy sessions to provide comfort and safety for their children’s trauma work, or to work with their children on attachment-related issues. Her philosophy empowers parents with information, offering new skills and techniques to meet the needs of their children.Deborah Gray lives in Washington state with her husband and their three children. Contact her at

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