I have also been reading a whole lot. I am confident that our new therapist is going to take what I already know from my training and my books and help my husband and myself feel confident that we are being the parents that CD needs us to be.
The research these days on the importance of secure attachment is overwhelming. The first six months of life are really that important. Attachment Theory is no longer a theoretical idea, it is science. It is a science of brain development and science of predicting future struggles when secure attachment is not achieved.
Below is an explanation of CD's attachment style from the page to which I linked. She also has some disorganized attachment symptoms so she is more like a combination of the two:
With insecure ambivalent attachment characterized by ‘only sometimes’ type of caregiving, babies learn that the world and their ability to have an impact on it is basically inconsistent – sometimes things happen, sometimes they don’t – sometimes all their needs are met, and sometimes only some of them are. Infants learn that others are not dependable or consistent. They often also do not learn or understand emotions – their own or others.
What I am learning is that this describes CD's challenges. She has difficulties reading facial expressions. People who look at her, admire her, laugh at something cute she did are more often than not, perceived as threatening. No matter how many times I explain the facial expressions or why people laugh she still screams "NOTHING'S FUNNY!!!!" when she feels threatened by laughter.
I don't know how many of you have ever smoked some marijuana and gotten paranoid but I imagine that this is what it is like for CD. Every person in a hood looks menacing, people seem to be invading your personal space when they aren't. You know, like, for example.
I learned that we need to parent CD differently in some ways. If her emotional age is 18 months (proposed by the attachment specialist) we have to hear the awful, angry words that she uses much in the way we would hear an 18 month old when they cry and tantrum. We accept that18 month olds often can't calm themselves down, are not expected to have a whole lot of control over their emotional expression and aren't expected to have internalized that their emotional expressions can have a negative impact on others.
I learned that we need to accept the words right now. No time outs, no asking her to say things in a different way. Eighteen months. Her words are cries no matter how awful those words are. I learned to encourage her to use her words, to mirror her, to hear the feelings behind the words and ignore the words themselves. The attachment specialist hears me when I tell her how unfair it is to her brothers that she can say these things to them. She, herself an adoptive parent to three children, one of which continues to need attachment work, said that from the depths of her soul she hears me. She said that if there was any other way we would do it that other way. But there isn't. If we "punish" her for using her words, chances are, next we will be struggling with her breaking things, abusing the dog, and hitting the people that she is angry at.
I've learned that CD doesn't understand that my loving her Daddy and her two brothers does not make me love her less. She doesn't know that I have enough love for all of them. So when she gets upset when her Daddy hugs me, it is because she is insecure. When I am focused on helping Z with homework, she perceives Z as taking my love away from her.
What is the cure? It's loving CD the way she needs to be loved. Hope, that in time, it starts to stick. It's understanding the world from CD's eyes and hope that the world will continue to look safer and less frightening over time. It is meeting CD at the emotional developmental stage that she is and accepting that it is what it is.