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Learning the Dance of Attachment

by Holly van Gulden and Charlotte VickPublished by Holly van Gulden and Crossroads Adoption Services; $19.75

Nobody “gets” adopted kids better than Holly van Gulden. She grew up with adopted siblings, she’s an adoptive mom, and she works with parents and kids as an adoption therapist. Now, she and a fellow adoption expert, Charlotte Vick, team up to offer parents an advice-packed guide on bonding with their children.

This book describes each stage of attachment in terms of normal development, complemented by an “In Adoption” box discussing how adoption might affect a child’s progress.

When kids experience trauma, they get “stuck” at the developmental stage in which the trauma occurred. Parents should consider troubling or inappropriate behaviors as a guide, say the authors, and respond accordingly. If your 10-year-old behaves like a four-year-old, you should respond as you would to a four-year-old displaying that behavior.

An invaluable chart near the end of the book breaks down 13 common negative behaviors. For each, the chart lays out the ages at which they’re normal, ages at which they’re problematic, possible causes, how parents typically react, and how they should react. For example, if your recently adopted eight-year-old lies consistently, you should understand that the child may be scared of losing another nurturing relationship. You should respond as you would to a five-year-old, by offering praise when he tells the truth—and plenty of hugs.

Other useful sections include self-care tips for parents, games to enhance attachment in older kids, and proven discipline strategies for specific behaviors, such as ignoring parents, stealing, and self-inflicting harm.

The book’s brevity means that it occasionally reads more like an outline than a book, but it is perfect as a quick reference for parents and for close friends and family members to understand why your child behaves the way he does.

To order Learning the Dance of Attachment, call 715-386-5550, e-mail, or use this online order form.

Reviewed by Susan Freivalds, the founder of Adoptive Families magazine.

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