One of the tough things about being a birth mother is loving your birth child with all your heart, even if you don’t know him or her very well. Even in really open adoptions you aren’t there every day, and it can be hard to form a relationship with them. Here are five things you can do to bond with your birth child.

1. Playtime

It’s normal to feel a little nervous around your birth child, especially if he or she is shy around you. The best way to get over that is through playtime. If your birth child is younger, that means getting down on the floor and reading books or playing with toys. If your birth child is older, that means movies or ping pong or walks. No matter what it is, spending time directly interacting with your birth child is the best way to form a bond.

2. Happy Mail

If you don’t have frequent visits (or even if you do) sending happy mail is a great way to reinforce positive bonds. Kids love getting mail meant just for them. Brightly colored envelopes and simple notes will go a long way. If it’s okay with the adoptive parents, send a small gift that aligns with his or her current interests. Sending happy mail shows your birth child how special he or she is to you.

3. Phone Calls/ Skype

Phone calls or video chatting is another way to make your birth child feel special. It shows your child that he or she is important to you. It’s exciting to have someone make time just to talk to you. Your child will associate that excitement with you, so every time you call or see your child she or he will be even more excited.

4. Bond With the Adoptive Family

Having a healthy relationship with your birth child’s family will help your child feel more comfortable with you. Your child will see that the parents and siblings are having fun with you, so your child will want to have fun with you too. Talk to the adoptive parents about subjects other than just your birth child. Talk about yourself, ask them about work, and just be friends.

5. Take it Easy

Trying to force a bond with your birth child will actually make it harder to have a good relationship with them. Sometimes it takes time, but it’s worth it. Just tell your child how much you love him or her, spend time with your child when you can, and the rest will come naturally.