The great thing about love is that it is very much universal. No matter where people have started their journey or what language they speak, love speaks loudly and often very clearly. However, there will be different ways that we show one another love depending on the person. Oftentimes, this will have nothing to do with biology and much more to do with personality. As each person is different, each receives love and shows love in a different way. You will learn to show love to your child as you get to know one another more and understand in what ways they best understand love.
If you have adopted a child, it may take some time to build your bond and to convince your child, or rather, help them understand that you do, in fact, love them. While much of this display of love would be consistent with how you would show a biological child that you love them, there will be special considerations that you will need to take based on the journey your new child has taken to enter your home. If you have adopted a child from infancy, the way you show them love will be very much the way you would show a child love if you had given birth to them or they were biological. If a child is older it may take a lot more time to build that bond. The show of love to them will have a lot to do with showing them that, no matter what, you will always be there for them and are not going anywhere.
One of the best things you can do to show a child, whom you have adopted, that you love them is to be intentional about the time you spend bonding with them. When the adoption first occurs, try to set aside some time to spend with your child without the distractions of the outside world. It will be tempting to want to introduce them to everyone and to overwhelm them unintentionally. However, taking a few weeks, in the beginning, to spend some time alone, go on vacation, or just spend time together as a family unit will mean a lot to help with bonding. Your child understanding that you love them will take time and also take a lot of trust. It is normal for the bond to not be there right away.
Even with an infant, even with one you’ve given birth to, it can take a while to feel things out and for things to be able to feel normal. This bonding time is also important for an infant to grow to know that you are their caretaker and you are the one that they can depend on. That does not mean that you have to go so far as to not introduce them to anyone, but just spend a little time making sure that you’re giving them quality time especially in the beginning.
It may seem strange to talk about normalcy right after I just got finished talking about spending one-on-one time with your child. However, getting things to normal will be important in showing your child that you love them. Much of showing love to your child will be treating them as part of the family. It will take a while for your child to get comfortable, especially if they are older. Doing normal things and getting back to normal life will help your child acclimate to their new surroundings alongside the bonding time. Once you’ve had that bonding time together, get into a normal schedule. Don’t try to walk on eggshells or make life fun all the time for the sake of your child. Get into a routine that you would as a normal family unit. Give your new child chores or do things with your child that you would do normally. This is especially prevalent in older child adoption as it will give them a full idea of what it’s like to be a part of the family. Once they feel more comfortable and see that they are an important part of the family unit, that will certainly open the door for them to feel loved.
If you have an infant, normalcy will be important as it is to any infant. Getting your child on a schedule or simply having the child acclimate to your regular home life will be important. My daughter was three and a half months old when we brought her home. She spent the first three and a half months of her life in foster care. While even the adoption professionals told us that she would not struggle or have a bond with her foster family yet, it was very clear that she did. It took her about a week to really get used to our family and her new surroundings. You could definitely tell that she felt more comfortable after about a week. Getting back to normal life really helped and keeping a routine helped her to understand a bit more that we were there for her and that we would be taking care of her. It may be a bit easier with an infant, but it’s mostly about your child learning that you are the caregivers and the ones who they can turn to. They will know that you answer when they call and are there to care for them and to provide for all of their needs.
Part of making your child whom you have adopted feel loved is making sure that they know you are open and happy to speak with them about their adoption. Their adoption is a part of them. It’s a part of who they are. Even if you adopted a child who was an infant, their life began before you came into the picture. They have a story that began before you. Make sure that your child feels comfortable and knows that you are open to speaking about that life. Not only will this help them to know that you love them, but it will also help them to know that you accept them for who they are. Their birth family and their adoption will always be a part of their identity.
Especially as your child grows and comes into their teen years, whether it be something small or a large part of their experience, they will have some sort of identity reconciliation regarding their adoption. Let them know that you are there and happy to talk with them about their adoption. Let them know how much you love them. Tell them about their adoption story often and make it their normal.
I often talk to my daughter, who is now 4 years old, about her adoption. While she doesn’t completely understand the concept of adoption as a whole, she knows firmly that she was adopted and that she came from another family who also loved her dearly. She knows that she had a life before me. She understands that she has a whole extended family who also loves her and that her placement came from a place of love.
Part of making your child feel loved is helping them have an understanding that they are loved by many. Regardless of any experience you have had with your child’s birth family, do not speak negatively about them around your child. Even if your child did not have a good experience with them, their birth family will always be a part of their identity. Part of showing your child that you love them will be accepting them completely for who they are. Speaking poorly about our children’s birth families can have an incredibly negative impact on them. It can make them feel not good enough or that something is wrong with them if we harbor negativity toward their birth family.
It is okay to have negative feelings and it’s okay to be upset about things that might have happened in your child’s past or things that a birth family has done. However, it is not okay to express those to your child under any circumstances. Allow your child to talk freely with you, but make sure they know that you accept them completely for who they are. If you have an opportunity to speak life into a birth family or to speak positively about them, do so whenever possible. If your child is a part of an open adoption, do everything you can to grow a positive and loving relationship. Part of loving your child and showing them this love will be doing your best to love the ones they love. Let your child know that you love and accept the part of their life that began before you.
We don’t really live in the world anymore of keeping adoption a secret. Back in the day, adoption was one of those things that someone in a Lifetime movie found out about when they were searching in their parent’s attic and they found adoption documents or an old birth certificate. It was super dramatic and a huge scandal. Apart from a few delicate situations, there is really little reason to not disclose an adoption to your child. It is much healthier when a child knows they are adopted and that has become their normal. There are always exceptions to any rule, but there are few to this one.
Part of showing your child that they are loved will be continually being honest with them about their adoption story. You will have to gauge honesty through an age-appropriate lens but talk about your child’s adoption story in a loving way. A part of any good story is hearing the origin story of the character. I know that my daughter loves to hear about how she came to live with us and became an irreplaceable part of our family. There are more difficult parts of her story that she will learn as she gets older, but the honesty that we provide her is important. The honesty that you provide your child as they ask questions will show them that they are loved. They will know that they are loved as they can come to you and know that you will answer any question with honesty and love. Trust is key in helping your child maintain the understanding that they are loved.
This article has given you over 2,000 words on how to love your child whom you have adopted, but it is important to understand that you will likely inherently know how to show your child love. Love is really inherent in all of us. It’s part of the thing that makes us human. Even just the fact that you pursued adoption shows your child love. You wanted your child so bad that you jumped through hoops and went through months or even years of documents and studies and interviews. You likely spent thousands of dollars just to become a parent to this child. That doesn’t make you a savior nor does it make you a hero, but it definitely shows that you loved and wished for this child whom you have brought in your home.
Adoption in and of itself is a love story. While you will need to work at learning how your child receives love, feel confident in knowing that even just reading articles like this is you stepping in the right direction. Continue to get to know your child and learn the things that make them feel loved. You might even straight up ask your child what makes them feel the most loved. As in any relationship, we learn the things that make one another feel the most loved and appreciated. I know that my oldest son feels the most loved when I think of him when I am at the store and buy him something nice, even if it’s small. I know that my daughter feels the most loved when I give her back scratches before bed. I know that my husband feels the most loved when I make his lunch for the next day. Love is often in the little things. As you grow together, you will learn how to share love more openly and in abundance daily.
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Lita Jordan is a master of all things “home.” A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the “other Michael Jordan” and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on www.facebook.com/halfemptymom/.