Hello everyone and happy September. I hope you all had a pleasant summer and didn’t miss us too terribly much during our summer break…who am I kidding, I hope you missed us a lot!
At the agency I recently worked at, in an effort to expand our knowledge of attachment, we watched DVDs of a training by Dr. Gordon Neufeld. A lot of what Dr. Neufeld says made sense, but one thing stuck with me beyond all else. He talked about bridging separation by allowing the child to look forward to the next contact.
While Dr. Neufeld focused on what he termed the “transplanted child” (i.e. youth who are or have been in foster care), this concept is also applicable to children adopted as infants or even non-adopted children.
At its simplest and most basic, it is the difference between saying, “I’ll miss you while you’re at school today,” and, “I’ll see you at 3:00 p.m.” One emphasizes the separation, while the other focuses on the reunion. One of the reasons this practice has stuck with me (aside from it making very good sense) is that I’m not sure how I can apply it fully in my own situation.
Social Worker Kat can easily embrace this idea in a couple of ways:
- Have next visit date set by end of this visit
- Next contact doesn’t have to be in person, it could be a telephone call or a card.
Birth Mom Kat (and Long Distance Auntie Kat, for that matter) is struggling to make that list a reality.
I don’t know when I’ll visit with my son next. I know a visit will happen, it’s even possible that another will happen in 2013 (!!!), but at this point I don’t know exactly when. It takes a lot of planning and schedule coordinating and I refuse to promise a visit that may not happen. Is saying, “Let’s compare school schedules,” concrete enough to bridge the separation?
Even coordinating a phone call takes a lot of work. Calculating time differences, taking into account school/camp/extracurricular activities (his and his brother’s), guessing which parent he’ll be with at a particular moment in order to know which cell phone to call all come into play. That’s not even mentioning my work schedule and commute.
And yet saying, “I’ll send you a card or a letter,” does not seem like enough.
Dr. Neufeld does make room for non-direct/psychological connections such as, “I’ll be thinking of you every night before bed,” or even, “Hold on to/take care of this item for me until I see you next,” but I haven’t yet found a way to work these things into my open adoption.
What are things do you do or could you do to bridge the gaps for your kids, whether they live with you everyday or not? Do you think focusing on the next contact would be beneficial?
About the author:
Kat Cooley, MSW writes here at Open Adoption Bloggers twice a month. She previously worked as a social worker providing comprehensive all options counseling to those experiencing unplanned pregnancy and is now pursuing a PhD in Social Work with a focus on adoption related research. She is also a birth mom over a decade into an open adoption. She is always open to suggestions for topics; you can leave them in the comments, at the OAB Facebook page, or tweet her @KMCooleyMSW.