Early Stages of Development

The First Year: The primary job of a baby during the first year is to develop a sense of trust in the world and come to view it as a place that is predictable and reliable. During this period, a consistently nurturing and tension-free environment makes a child feel secure. The most valuable thing you can do is to show, through attention and affection, that you love your child and that your child can depend on you.

The process of separation also begins during the first year of a child's life. A milestone is reached when children learn to separate from their parents by crawling and then by walking. At the same time, babies often become fearful of separation. Experts in child development view early childhood as a series of alternating attachment and separation phases that establish the child as an independent person who can relate happily to family members and friends, and be capable of having intimate relationships with others.

The Second Year: Toddlers continue the attachment and separation cycle in more sophisticated ways in the second year. They learn to tell you how they feel by reaching their arms out to you and protesting vigorously when you must leave them. Anxiety about separating from you heightens, and they may begin to express anger. During this stage, when you must guide and protect your child, and become a "no" sayer. Your child may become frustrated and it will show in new ways. Helpless crying usually comes first. followed by aggressive behavior such as throwing things, hitting, pushing, biting, and pinching. Such behavior often puzzles and frightens parents. Adoptive parents often worry that an unknown genetic trait is surfacing or that their behavior has something to do with the adoption.

Ages 2 to 6: The preschool years are filled with activity and nonstop questions. Once children learn to speak, parents begin to feel pressure to explain adoption to their children. It is also when children's ears are wide open to adult conversation and they take in so much more than adults think they can. The more comfortable parents are in trying to answer questions honestly, the more encouraged their children will be to learn.