All prospective adoptive parents should be required to read Dan Hughes’ Building the Bonds of Attachment. Since children who were adopted are prime candidates for attachment issues or reactive attachment disorder, parents need to be fully aware of how the disorder occurs, as well as the parenting and therapy required for a child’s healing. Additionally, even children without attachment disorder need parental interventions to properly and fully bond and attach to their new, forever families. Dan Hughes’ approaches work for all newly-home children.

People who read this book say, “Now I get it. Now I understand how proper attachment occurs and how it doesn’t.” Or, “I cried when I read the book because it was so powerful.” In their enthusiasm for the techniques outlined in the book, others jokingly refer to themselves as “Dan Hughes groupies!”

As the book describes the case study of Katie, a young girl with reactive attachment disorder, it integrates ways for parents to encourage a child’s capacity for fun and love. Some of these are: eye contact, touch, rocking, regressive nurturing experiences, humor and gentle teasing, and routines and rituals.

Dan Hughes also discusses approaches for effective discipline, often an issue with newly-arrived home adoptees, whether or not they have attachment issues. A few of the suggestions he outlines include providing natural and logical consequences; being predictable in your attitude but unpredictable in your consequences; and setting and holding to YOUR preferred emotional tone, not your child’s.

Throughout the book, Hughes emphasizes the requisite attitude that parents need to maintain. The oft-repeated list includes being accepting, curious, empathetic, loving, and playful.

Reading Building the Bonds of Attachment before you adopt will help solidify your knowledge of attachment: what it is, what it looks like when it works properly, and what it looks like in a child whose first three years exposed her to abuse, neglect, and uncommitted caregivers.

Reading Building the Bonds of Attachment after you adopt, will provide you with additional tools to assist with creating a strong bond between you and your child.

Reading or re-reading Building the Bonds of Attachment after a child has been diagnosed with attachment disorder, reminds a parent that attachment disorder is treatable and the book will become one of the tools needed to help a child heal and grow.

Building the Bonds of Attachment is required reading! Buy it, borrow it, or get it from the library, but be sure to put it on your to-do list.

Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children, by Daniel A. Hughes, 1999, Jason Aronson Inc., paperback, $35. Dan Hughes is a psychologist specializing in child abuse and neglect, foster care, adoption, and attachment.

Credits: Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan’s training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She’s also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder). Her website is