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6 Tips for Bonding With Adopted Children

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An adoption is a traumatic and challenging experience for all involved. Biological parents have to give up their child, who has to make a difficult transition to a brand new family, who in turn have to adapt their lives to taking care of someone else’s child. It a long, trying process for all involved. For the adoptive parents, they have to make an emotional, familial, developmental and social connection to a child who doesn’t share their DNA or their genes, and will grow up to look nothing like them. How can they do that? Here are six tips for bonding with adopted children.

1. Give It Time

None of the happy pictures on the adoption agency brochures even begin to hint at how long it takes for an adopted child to make a connection with his or her family. There will be resentment, discomfort, maybe even distrust going both ways. Patience, of divine proportions, will be key to break through all the layers between adopted child and adoptive parents. The stakes are higher for adopted children, so bonding could take years, longer than it does for biological families.

2. Join A Support Group

No matter how overwhelming it is to adopt, there are others who have gone through the same process as you, and they’re willing to help. Your adoption agency should be able to connect you with an adoptive parents’ support group, where you can reveal your fears, concerns, questions, insecurities and hopes to people who will understand precisely what you mean, because they’ve done it all before.

3. Be Prepared To Be Frustrated

It’s tempting to think that bonding with an adopted child will be a logical, rational process, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Adoptive parents must be prepared for their child actively (and prolongedly) resisting any attempts to connect with them, and it’s only natural for the parents to feel aggrieved. This is a natural, human response, and parents have to learn not to be surprised by it, or believe that they are unfit parents or the adopted child is not right for them. If parents can head these emotions off at the pass, as it were, it will prepare them better for the more grueling days, weeks, months and years of trying to bond with their adopted child.

4. Touch

Holding, cuddling or otherwise touching a newborn adopted child is not only a no-brainer, it’s easy. The situation becomes a bit more complicated when your adoptee is older, or even a teenager, even more so if they come from an abusive or neglectful background. While it’s true that some adults don’t much care for physical contact, it’s important to let your adopted child know that the touching you offer is safe and healthy. Whether the child is a few days old, a few years old, or even older, start slowly. Ask their permission before something as innocuous as a high five, and gradually get your child used to the idea of physical contact with a trusted adult.

5. Open Ears and Open Doors

This could apply just as much to biological children, but it’s slightly more imperative for adopted children: always be there for them. Don’t simply tell them that they can come to you for anything, and then refer questions to the other parent or a teacher at school. Stop whatever you’re doing to give them your complete attention, something they may have lacked in their previous familial unit. This will impress upon your adopted child that they are, indeed, a part of your family, and that you are truly being a parent to them.

6. Talk

Following from #5, conversation is key. We’ve all seen the movies where a parents’ question of how their kids’ day went was met with sullen silence, but it’s nonetheless important to keep the lines of communication always open, even if you’re the only one doing the talking. Sooner or later, your adoptive child will have something on their mind, and they will feel better for asking you, rather than assuming that because you don’t talk to them, you’re not interested.

Categories: Family
Average Joe
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