My three children spent their first 3, 4, and 5 years in Russian orphanages. This has had a dramatic effect on their lives. The following article written by Kurt Ellis explains why.
“Imagine watching someone build a brick wall without mortar. The wall will be weak and will not last because it has nothing to hold it together. The person building the wall is wasting his time.
Now imagine the same person building a brick wall using mortar between the bricks. Initially, the wall is not strong, but as the mortar hardens, the wall becomes very strong. It will provide safety, security, comfort, and is almost indestructible.
Attachment is very similar to the wall described above. The “bricks” of attachment are the everyday actions of parents: feeding her when she is hungry, changing his diaper, soothing her when she is in distress, and many more. If these are the only interactions that a caregiver has with a child, however, the attachment will not be very strong or secure. It takes “mortar” to make the attachment strong. The mortar in attachment is the interactions that come so naturally between parents and their child- eye contact, cooing, baby talk, smiling, physical contact, tickling, and a million others! Without those interactions, the attachment will be very insecure.
A child who has been institutionalized (orphanage) most likely has gotten the bricks, but almost certainly has not gotten the mortar, so it will take time for secure attachment to develop. Let’s put this into perspective. If a typical day includes 100 interactions between parent and child (and this is a very conservative estimate), then a 12 month old child in a loving home has received 36,500 of these interactions. A 12 month child who has been institutionalized, however, has missed out on those. If you adopt a one year old child who has been institutionalized, then there is some catching up that needs to take place!
What a joy it is as an adoptive parent to watch the mortar begin to harden and to see secure attachment begin to develop! Just as it is hard work to build a brick wall, developing secure attachment with an adopted child may be hard work as well. Ask any parent who has had the joy of watching the attachment develop, and they will tell you that the work is definitely worth it!”
Kurt Ellis has a family practice called Families Forever Counseling in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he focuses on adoptive families and attachment issues. email@example.com