5 Means I Love You is the title of a kid-friendly graphic novel that does a lovely job of providing a glimpse into the thoughts and life of a newly adopted young boy.
Written by Anne Martin, Shalem’s director of Restorative Practice, and Geoff Bateman, and published by Shalem, this book is an excellent resource for both families and professionals. It brings to life a story often shared in training by Dr. Daniel Hughes, leading attachment expert in the USA and founder of the Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy model.
The story begins by introducing us to Tom, a boy who is about to be adopted. Right at the beginning we find out that Tom is not sure why his previous foster families were not able to keep him and he makes an assumption that perhaps it is because he is bad. Meanwhile Tom’s adoptive parents are excited to welcome their son into their home and want to ensure that he is happy.
Over the course of the story we realize that the simple words, “I love you,” said to express connection and belonging, are experienced by Tom as scary and unsettling instead. He had previous caregivers who told him that they love him but who are now no longer involved in his life. In an effort to control the hurt and pain of loss, Tom insists on not hearing those three words, “I love you.”
This book depicts how the parents are able to accept that “I love you” is hard for their son to hear, but it also shows their recognition of how important it is that he knows and experiences their acceptance and love. And so they seek to figure out creative ways to help Tom know and receive their unconditional love for him.
Dr. Daniel Hughes stresses the importance of having an attitude of PACE: Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy in all relationships, but particularly when reaching out to nurture secure and healthy attachment with children who are not always sure they want to attach. This story illustrates how parents can embody this PACE attitude as they seek to help their son feel safe and secure in his new home.
Through Tom and his family, we realize that nurturing healthy attachments is not just a one-time thing, but a process that occurs through repetitive experiences of being accepted and loved unconditionally.
This delightful book is already being used and enjoyed by adoptive and foster families, psychotherapists, social workers and mental health professionals. Kudos to Anne and Geoff for bringing this story to life in such a wonderful way!
To order copies please call Shalem at 1-866-347-0041 or go to Shalem’s website.