After a long adoption process, you’ve officially adopted your child. Remember, be there for your child after adoption. You’re thrilled that this child is now a part of your family, but he or she feels differently. Your child may be excited, but have some worries about living with you, and may feel wary being away from birth parents or foster parents. Feeling genuinely concerned for her, you’re wondering precisely how you can assure her that you’ll always be here for her. So, how can you be there for your child after adoption?
Form a Trusting Bond or Loving Connection With Them
Imagine being a child and suddenly being taken from your parents and family that you love dearly. Then, being placed with strangers, who are although friendly, but not familiar to you at all. It’s a huge adjustment and a frightening reality as a kid, right?
It’s not easy for any child to be taken away from the only people he’s ever known, so establishing a loving bond is one of the first things you should do to gain his trust in you. How do you form a loving and trusting connection with your adopted child?
Remember, it’ll take a lot of time, patience, and effort. It won’t happen in a day; in fact, it could take months, or even up to a year or so. Don’t take it personally; she could have a terrifying history with adults, or she could be socially withdrawn for other reasons. You could always talk with the adoption social worker or counselor for the more severe issues (behavioral issues, developmental delays, emotional issues, etc.).
Play with him. Playing is great for a variety of reasons, such as gaining social skills, and assisting with his developmental skills. Here are some great bonding activities:
- Get on her level and offer to help her build a tall tower.
- Play a video game with him.
- Do a puzzle together.
- Go exploring outside with her.
- Go on a scavenger hunt or a treasure hunt.
- Play freeze tag.
- Play hide and seek.
- Play ball with him.
- Play with balloons, blow them up, and try to keep them from touching the ground.
- Put on some fun music and have a silly dance party together.
- Have a puppet show, and let her make her own puppets.
- Play dress up and pretend to be whoever or whatever you’re dressed up as.
- Make a fort with your child.
- Get involved in what she’s interested in playing.
Spending that one-on-one time engaging with her will help your child feel closer to you and she also gets to let her guard down to just have fun.
Help him learn routines, and make those routines enjoyable. For example, you can ask him to help you set the table for mealtime by giving him a special task to do. You can set up a day of the week when you have a family game night or movie night, and you can let your child choose the game or movie that night. You can set a bedtime routine with a fun bubble bath, then a cute bedtime story with you being silly acting out the characters of the book. Giving your child some control with the routines will give him stability. Children need and rely on the structure of routines.
If she has a different cultural background, show your interest in her culture. Learn all about where she’s from and let her be proud of her cultural background. You can get all kinds of age-appropriate books for her to look at with you. You can learn some of her music, and teach the cultural songs to her. Look out for the stereotypical messages that can be displayed about the cultural lifestyles in both books and media. You can learn to cook ethnic foods. You can show her how diverse your neighborhood is, and show her there are all kinds of people of different ethnicities and cultures too. By being open to learning all about her heritage, you’re showing her that you want to connect and get to know her whole selves.
Let him help decorate his room. Your adopted child really needs to feel like he belongs there, and need a space in your home to truly call his own. Take him on a special shopping trip to pick out stuff for his room. He could choose his own paint color, and if he’s old enough to help, paint his room with them. He could pick what bedding he’d like, choose what room furniture (dressers, desks, beds, etc.) he’d want, and he could choose what he’d want to decorate his room like. Involving him in his room decorating will give him the freedom to make his own choices, and help you both bond by helping him with the things he can’t do, like putting furniture together.
Speaking of room, allow her to have her own privacy. Don’t constantly hover over her; it could either make her nervous or annoyed. This is especially important if you have a pre-teen or a teenager. By giving her some personal space and privacy, you’re allowing her to let her guard down and make herself truly comfortable at home.
Find out your child’s “love language”. All kids are different, and not one is just like the other. Kids and adults alike have different ways of showing and receiving love. The key is to find out your child’s love language.
- There are words of affirmation, where you can praise your child by letting him know what a great job he’s doing, and stating how much you love and care about him.
- There are acts of servitude, where you can make her favorite meal, help her study for a test, help her pick up her toys, etc.
- Then, there’s physical touch, like a hug, a handshake, high fives, cuddling when reading a story, giving manicures and pedicures, foot rubs, tickles, and back scratches.
- You can give gifts, like a toy, game, clothing or accessory he always wanted but never got to have while with his birth parents or in foster care.
- The last love language is quality time, and that’s just simply giving your child your undivided attention and doing an activity together or just talking about your day together. Once you’ve figured out your child’s love language, your child will feel like you really are there for him or her and that you’ll always care.
Encourage your child and let her know you see her as an amazing kid. Lovingly say how proud you are of her for trying her best when things are hard for her. Let her know that nobody’s perfect, and it takes lots of practice to be great at something. You don’t want to overpraise her; just let her know that you’re happy that she’s such a good kid. When your child feels discouraged and feels like giving up on something, say a soccer game, encourage her to keep trying her best, and just have fun playing the game. Giving her that encouragement to never give up boosts her self esteem, and lets her know you’ll be there for her when the going gets tough.
Show that you respect his birth parents by not talking badly about the parents. Your child is still a part of that family, in a way, so if you’re talking harshly about his birth parents, your child could feel like you don’t like him either. Also, don’t take it to heart when your child is upset with you and says he wants his real mom and real dad out of anger and spite. Explain to him that you are your child’s parent, and show that you love him just as much as his birth parents do, regardless of the situation. If the adoption is open adoption, be cordial and friendly when talking with your child’s birth parents. Read to your child the letters that his birth parents sent, or let him look at the photographs the birth parents send. If your child is at the age where he can write, let him write a letter to his birth parents. Don’t just act like he didn’t have parents before you came in the picture. Be open to forming an alliance with your child’s birth parents, and, by doing that, he’ll see that you’ll always be there for him no matter what.
Be available for her by showing her that you’re a safe haven. What I mean by that is, by showing them that they can go to you whenever she’s afraid, or feel unsafe. Lovingly tell her that you’re here for her, regardless of the mistakes she makes. Tell her that you’re available to just be there for her to talk to you and that it’s okay to let you know how she’s feeling. Even after she has a conflict with you, reassure her that it’s okay, remain calm, apologize when needed, and establish a reconnection. When your child is in that vulnerable state, it’s not ever the time to ridicule, judge, or make fun of her. Remember that she wants to look up to you and look to you for that guidance and support that she might have never received before.
Be patient with him. Opening up and letting your guard down doesn’t come easy for a kid, so if he’s having a hard time talking with you about what’s bothering him, don’t push and demand him to. It’s difficult when your child acts out and is defiant, but you can show patience by:
- Taking deep breaths.
- Practicing some calm and simple meditations.
- Walking away from the situation if you feel your anger is through the roof.
- Talking it out with your child, and listening to what he wants to say.
- Repeating some mantras.
- Empathizing with him.
- Remaining calm.
Displaying your patience for him shows him that you’re a trusting and caring parent, and you’re becoming a great role model for him. It also gives you many opportunities for your child to practice patience in any situation.
Make time to take care of you in order to be the best parent you can be for her:
- Get the rest you need, and don’t be afraid to ask your spouse, family members, and friends for help. Sleep deprivation isn’t good for anyone, especially for parents who are always caring for their kids.
- Don’t try to be “Super Mom or Super Dad” by trying to do it all.
- Take care of your whole self; physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
- Go to counseling and talk about the things that you need help with. By helping yourself, you can effectively help your child too.
- Talk with your spouse and other parents who are going through the same struggles with parenting.
- Read parenting books, magazines, articles, and forums on adoption.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. Parenting is hard, but a rewarding process.
- Take a couple of hours and have time for just you. Even the best parents need a break from time to time; don’t feel guilty for making time for some much-needed self-care.
- Go for a walk around your neighborhood.
- Listen to some calming music.
- Take a relaxing bubble bath, or a hot shower.
- Find a babysitter, and have a date night or go out and do something enjoyable that you haven’t done in a while.
- Stay away from social media for a while. Comparing yourself to everyone else’s lives isn’t healthy, and besides, putting your social media accounts aside will have you truly appreciate what you have.
- Remind yourself you’re doing the best you can each day and night.
Say and Show Them That You Love Them Each and Every Single Day
Kids need to always know that he or she is loved, and your child is no different. Show your child how much you love him by accepting your child just the way he is. Tell her just why you love her and how much she truly means to you. By giving your child your unconditional love even through the hardest times, your child always knows you’ll be right there for the rest of his or her life.
Kandice Confer is an adopted twin, wife, and mother of two girls who loves spending time with her family and two rabbits. She loves reading and writing inspirational works of literature and loves telling stories.