The long wait is over, and you finally have your adopted child. A common question is, how long does it take to bond with an adopted child?
Bonding with an adopted child can take between 6 months to 2 years, depending on the age of the child and other circumstances. Bonding with an infant can be quicker than bonding with an older child who has a good deal of adjustment to get through. Bonding is a process, regardless of the child’s age.
When anticipating the adoption of a child, it can be easy to fantasize about the outcome. We will bring the adopted child home, and they will be so grateful to have been adopted, they will show so much love and the bonding will happen very quickly.
Bonding with an adopted child
The reality of adoption can play out a bit differently than how we sometimes imagine it to be. There are so many variables to the bonding process between the adoptive parent and the adopted child.
If a child is an infant or newborn, the bonding process may happen a bit quicker, as an infant is at the stage of needing you and will cling to you quicker than an older child may.
There are many factors at play when considering how long it will take to develop that long-awaited bond with your adopted child. For example, was your child adopted internationally and now has a new language to learn?
That feeling of estrangement could linger until there is a way to communicate. Although, that is mere speculation. Perhaps the language barrier will not influence the bonding period at all.
If a child has experienced traumas that have hurt them either physically or emotionally, they may need some time to trust that their new forever home is a safe, loving place to be. Love is a process that grows through shared experiences and building trust.
Time is on an adoptive parent’s side, as the bond you want with your child is bound to happen eventually.
Closed adoptions were once the norm back when adoption was considered more taboo. Today, open adoptions are the most common type of adoptions. Pros and Cons of Open Adoption: Things to Consider is an article we wrote to give you a closer look at how open adoption works.
10 ways to bond with your adopted child
Every adoptive parent is hoping for a close bond with their newly adopted child. So how do you bond with your adopted child?
1. Do not try to rush the bonding process
Attachments formed with others happen through time and experiences. There are so many ways to bond with a child. Plan a family camping trip.
Go fishing for the day. Some of the deepest, best conversations can happen as you sit and wait for the fish to bite.
Take advantage of drives to the store, to soccer practice, and other everyday drives. Ask your adopted child open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer about things that may interest them.
2. Involve your adopted child in decision-making
Encourage your adopted child to participate in family decision-making. This will help your child feel valued as an important part of the family.
Genuinely listening to children when they speak, as well as respecting their input, has a significant impact on a child’s self-esteem. When a child feels valued and validated, they feel loved and important.
3. Never talk badly about your adopted child’s birth parents
Talking badly about a child’s birth parents will only cause further hurt and trauma to an already struggling child. Healing can be a difficult process for anyone.
When a child hears negative things about their birth parents, they find it difficult to move forward positively.
You want your child to learn to have a sense of compassion and understanding toward their birth parents. The skill of compassion and understanding will contribute to your child’s growth and maturity, as well as help them heal.
4. Talk to your adopted child at their eye level
This could mean kneeling down or perhaps sitting on a chair while they are standing. Making an effort to be at a child’s eye level will help your child feel less intimidated and more comfortable with you.
Hugs are more inviting, too, when you are already at their level.
5. Establish a routine for your adopted child
Routines offer structure and a feeling of comfort and safety for your child. Most children resent bedtimes, for example, yet structure helps a child feel loved.
Children feel insecure about so many things in life. After all, life is big and scary in the eyes of a small child. If a child lacks a routine, they are more apt to feel a sense of insecurity and instability.
6. An adopted child’s rejection is not personal
Do not take an adopted child’s apparent rejection personally. An adopted child is likely reacting to the hurt and trauma they have endured and not you personally.
Eventually, your child will learn that you are on their side.
7. Offer comfort to your adopted child.
An adopted child has gone through a good deal of transition and will likely need to be comforted. This could mean little things like offering a stuffed animal at bedtime; perhaps one they picked out at the store themselves.
Other ways to comfort a child could be offering them foods they enjoy or are accustomed to eating. This is not to imply spoiling a child, but rather to initially make them as comfortable as possible.
Providing your child is accepting of physical contact, a comforting hug can do wonders as well. Even if a child seems a bit stiff and unaccepting of a hug, you will be making them feel cared for. Eventually, they will likely trust you and reciprocate physical affection.
8. Misbehaving does not mean rehoming
An adopted child who has gone through trauma may not trust your sincerity and may try to test your commitment. Sadly, this could be due to being let down by other adults in their lives, specifically their birth parents.
Many children in foster care bounce from one foster home to another, as well. That instability takes a toll on a child, leaving them skeptical of trusting that their new home is their forever home.
When your child misbehaves, you will want to reassure them that you will still be there to love them, no matter what. Stability might be new to an adopted child; something they will need to learn to trust.
9. Establish an open dialog with your child
Depending on the age of your child, they may or may not wish to contribute to open conversations in the beginning.
Perhaps spending time doing fun things like fishing, swimming, attending fairs, carnivals, and other fun family events will help break the ice and encourage a gradual comfort level with your communications.
10. Give the bonding process a chance
Love is a process that takes time. Any kind of relationship grows with time and shared experiences. Trust your efforts and give the bonding process a chance.
Is it hard to love an adopted child?
When adoptive parents are asked by others if they love their adopted child the same, a common and probably defensive response is often, “Of course, I love all of my children the same.” Is it hard, though, to love an adopted child?
It is not hard to love an adopted child. Parents love all of their children, yet the type of love a parent feels for their biological child is genetically and naturally different. Adopted children are not loved less, but rather adopted children are loved differently.
If parents are answering more honestly, they will tell you that they love all of their children, but the love they feel for their adopted child or children is a different kind of love than what they feel for their biological children.
It is completely natural to have a concern that perhaps you will not bond with and love your adopted child like you would a biological child. The love and bond that a parent feels for their biological child is a fierce, overwhelming emotion that does not exist or can be understood until you have a biological child of your own.
This does not mean, though, that we are incapable of loving our adopted children. The love we feel may just differ slightly from how we love our biological children. Strong, emotional love is very much felt for all of our children, blood or not.
Another factor that comes into play here is that the bond you establish with your adopted child also depends on the age of your adopted child. Adopting a baby or infant offers a tremendous amount of bonding time to happen almost as naturally as it would with your biological child.
Visit The Guardian to read more about loving your adopted child.