The literature on children bonding to their new parents is plentiful but it falls short when it comes to the parents bonding with the child.
With our first adoption I didn’t even consider it an issue. After all she was 16 months old and completely helpless. I had bonded to her before I had ever met her and once we were together it was all so natural. It is often like this when adopting a younger child.
As we continued to adopt we sometimes found it more challenging to bond with our children. It wasn’t spontaneous or instant. It took effort, prayer and time. As I have said before some kids are just simply easy to love. They are the ones that do not test your patience, they exhibit less frequent irritating behavior and they are simply a joy to be around. If only everything in life was “that easy”!
But the truth is, it’s not… and sometimes it’s the ones that we work the hardest for that are the most rewarding. We feel that God has put these challenges in our life for a reason. He has entrusted delightful, special and challenging children to our care and it’s our job to love and nurture them into adulthood.
Actually, it’s these children that send me “straight into prayer” as I am answering the same question for the umpteenth time and trying to smile through the answer. “They” keep me closer to Him. It’s not the “easy life” that sends me into prayer, it’s the challenging times that keep me on my knees.
So how does a new parent attach and love a “hard to bond with child”?
Here are some ideas that have helped us.
1. We don’t expect to love our new child right away. If we do, alleluia! However, often times we have found that it takes time. Give yourselves permission to take the time you need to bond. Be nice to yourselves and to each other during the preliminary bonding stage.
2. We know that it is a process and that there is no set time that “love begins”. It starts small and grows. It comes from knowing how much God loves us and if we are worthy of his love certainly we can love HIS children.
3. We try to understand our child and their past. Why they respond the way they do to the world around them. We try to appreciate the fact that they have survived so much already and that they should be celebrated for their accomplishments. Sometimes it goes a little deeper and we need to understand the learning challenges that our new child may have. It really helps to have this information so you can better understand them and how they think.
4. Our new child needs to fit into their new life. We are not going to rearrange our whole family to fit around their desires. They need to obey the rules of the house and learn how to be part of a family. We all need to work together to make it work. Everyone is happier when we all work together!
5. We try to find common interests. I refuse to play Barbies but I will happily do a puzzle! I think it is so nice to share a common interest, it is bonding when both of you are enjoying your time together! Have fun with your new child!
6. I really like it when my child begins to speak English. Sometimes charades, sign language and pointing is all you need but it becomes so much more of a relationship when you speak the same language. In many ways that is selfish of me. Had I known we were going to adopt 13 children I would have put more effort into learning Mandarin.
7. Time together is key! Think of all the time they have spent away from you… the only way to really know your child, is to be with them as much as possible.
8. Try not to compare your “hard to bond with child” to your other children We are all so different and we will all manage these difficult times in our own way. I do keep in mind what worked and didn’t work with the other children but I try my hardest not to compare them. I remember after our first birth child I felt so confident! This parenting thing is easy! I got it down! I can do this! And then came child #2, she was COMPLETELY different than our first child. What an awakening!
9. Whatever cares your child needs, you should do them. It is bonding changing a colostomy bag, helping an older child change his diaper, handing them their daily dose of medicine or combing your older daughter’s hair.
10. It’s a choice, chose to love your child.
11. Pray about it. Give it to God and fast if you can.
12. It is also nice to have someone trustworthy to talk to such as your social worker or another adoptive mom. It helps to process your feelings and to get yourself back on track.
I hope these suggestions will help you.