As people who are called to visit and care for the orphan, how do we best serve and love on them?
Experts in childhood trauma tell us that the single greatest factor in a child’s ability to overcome trauma and become a healthy, fully-functioning adult is whether or not that child has a safe and loving adult to care for him. This important truth guides much of our methodology here at The Boaz Project.
Over the next few months, we’ll be running a series (the second week of each month) of articles about the importance of healthy attachment and how to support it. It is our hope that this information will increase your understanding and concern for the children we serve and you prayerfully support.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ATTACHMENT
Attachment is defined as “the bond that forms over time between a child and their parent or primary caregiver.” This bond is enhanced when the caregiver consistently meets the child’s most basic human needs and trust is developed. If this consistent meeting of needs occurs, the child will develop a secure attachment with his/her caregiver.
A healthy cycle of attachment would look something like this: If a child is hungry or wet, she will begin to cry. Mom will hear her crying and provide the nourishment and care she needs. The child’s need is met, and she begins to learn that if she is hungry or wet, she can always count on Mom. If the relationship remains consistent, this healthy attachment will continue to grow into adulthood and help her to form healthy relationships with friends, her life partner, and her own children.
WHAT DAMAGES ATTACHMENT?
Attachment is damaged when a child’s caregiver is not the one consistently meeting their needs or when their needs are not met at all.
For an orphan, learning to form healthy attachments is especially difficult. Having lost one or both parents to war or disease, being removed from their home after experiencing horrific abuse, or being given up due to the parents’ inability to care for their child, the message communicated to them is that their mother and/or father cannot or will not be there for them.
In response to their trauma, these children will more than likely establish an insecure attachment, making it difficult for them to bond with future caregivers and others who enter their lives.
Can you see a pattern of attachment in your own life? Reflect on your own childhood and recall what your caregiver(s) did to let you know that you could (or could not) place your trust in them.
Now, place yourself in the position of the orphan. You may or may not be able to relate to some of the experiences these precious ones have had. Take some time to think through what your own life would have been like if you did not have the opportunity to develop a secure attachment with a loving caregiver and the effects it would have on your relationships today.
This reflection may help you to see more clearly where these children are coming from and how important it is that we uphold and honor the attachments they are forming with their caregivers.
Former Boaz Project Intern