Claiming Your Adopted Child

For weeks, months or possibly even years you’ve been praying, decorating bedrooms, buying clothes and stuffies, asking questions, researching and observing.

Then suddenly, the time is here.

One of the toughest transitions in your adoption process may be when your child finally comes home.

Now it’s time to parent, and suddenly you realize that the child before you is a stranger.

On top of that, they may be dealing with the trauma of yet another move and disruption in their attachment.

How do you claim this child as YOURS even when you don’t feel that reality?

What if you don’t feel love toward this new person that is now in your home?

First of all, don’t panic!  It is perfectly normal to feel awkward, uncomfortable and even a bit resentful toward a new child in your home.  Your normal has been upset, and it’s going to take time to feel the comfortable familiarity we usually associate with “family” and “home”.  The good news is you have lots of time!  It will come, so just relax and admit that it may be harder than you envisioned.  If you have other children in the home, make sure you acknowledge this to them as well and give them space and assurance that the emotions they are feeling are perfectly normal and acceptable.

It’s ok for things to not feel ok for a while.

In these early days, try to find ways to imitate the natural bonding that would typically occur between a mother and newborn.  If the children are young, make sure you take full advantage of physical closeness (as long as they are comfortable.)  Help them bathe, rub lotion on their body, snuggle while reading a story or wrestle with them on the floor.  For older children you can brush their hair, give a back rub at bedtime, hold hands, do foot massages, have a spa day involving foot baths and face creams.

Another essential way infants bond with their caregiver is through food.  The act of meeting basic needs in a child’s life is extremely powerful to the brain.  One of the best ways you can connect with a new child in your home is to make sure you take charge of their food.  By this I mean that you offer them food regularly, take time to prepare it for them and constantly ask if they need anything to eat or drink.  Peel an apple or fix breakfast for a teenager who could do it themselves.  Pack their lunch, including their favourite foods and some treats.  Get them a glass of water instead of showing them where they can get it themselves.  Feed toddlers and preschoolers from sippy cups or bottles so you can hold it for them while they drink.

 Your approach in this situation is to do the opposite of what typical parents do.  Instead of encouraging independence you want to encourage their dependence on you.  It is in this way that trust is built and emotional connectivity happens.

Another way to connect with your new child and claim them as ‘yours’ is to make sure to give yourself space to be you.  It is amazing how the little things help it to feel more real for you!  Let yourself be a new parent.  Brag, spoil, buy and take lots of photos.  Your family has just gained a new member and you have every right to all the emotions a mother has in the first weeks after giving birth.

Other things you can do:

  • Start new routines…or revamp old ones they are familiar with
  • Listen closely to the ways they are trying to communicate with you
  • Spend TIME together – there is no substitute for this!  It is the ONLY way to get to know your newest son or daughter and for them to get to know you.
  • Hang their photos on the wall, their artwork on the fridge and leave their sticky fingerprints on the window.  They are all physical evidences of the reality that your family has expanded.
  • Host an adoption celebration when you think you and your child are ready.  Make it official and memorable.
  • Pray for your child and for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you try to reach his or her heart.  Much wisdom and grace is needed…especially when your attempts are spurned.

I hope that by reading this post the overwhelming message you are hearing is that

YOU HAVE A CHOICE!

We all love the idea of love at first sight and happily ever after…but if we’re honest we also know that is usually not reality.

Love is not a feeling or emotion that is left to fate to decide.

Love is a choice.

Adoption is a choice.

When you choose adoption, you are choosing love.

Unconditional love.

That sounds big…and it is…but really it is just a life full of little choices.

Day after day,

moment after moment,

I will choose love.

Some days it will feel hard and the sacrifice will be great.  There will be tears, and yes, even regret.

But other days will be so full of genuine, authentic, life giving joy that you will catch your breath and think, “How did I ever live without you?”

And suddenly, you will know it.

I love this child.

He is mine.

AF

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