Adoption, like the birth of a child, is a joyful time, as you welcome a new member of your family into your home. However, also like childbirth, all types of adoption can sometimes trigger a form of depression that can hinder your ability to bond with your child. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to fight post adoption depression and build a strong, lifelong relationship with your child.
Bringing an adopted child home is a life-changing event. With it will come a period of adjustment that will affect every area of your life. During this time, your priorities should be building your relationship with your child and easing their transition into the family. As a result, you will need practical help cooking and cleaning and emotional support as you navigate challenges that arise.
A strong support system is vital for obtaining this kind of help as you integrate your adopted child into your family. There are many people who can be a part of this support system. Family members and friends are great confidants, and adoption support groups are full of other adoptive couples who have similar experiences. Ask your adoption agency to recommend a good network, too.
Building a bond with your child happens more easily when you spend significant amounts of time with each other. Spending time with your child is especially important if you begin to feel the onset of post adoption depression, which is often characterized by a desire to retreat from closeness with your child. Not only does closeness help you to bond, but it can also help to reassure your adopted child, who, depending upon their pre-adoption experiences, may never have enjoyed the safety and security of loving parental relationships or who may need extra reassurance as they adjust to a new family.
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One way to maximize time with your child is to take time off of work after the adoption if possible. You may also want to carry younger children in slings or baby carriers to keep them physically close. For older children, you should focus on spending time playing, having fun, walking, talking, exploring interests, and engaging in other meaningful activities with each other. Older child adoption will also require you to provide consistent and open communication as your child processes the adoption and learns to trust you as their parents.
A major cause of post adoption depression is an adoption experience that does not match what you had envisioned. As a result, preparing yourself ahead of time for potential problems, and managing your expectations regarding the challenges that you and your child may face, can help you to avoid depression and improve your bonding experience with your child.
One way to do this is to consult your child adoption agency about your child’s past, in order to prepare for the needs they will bring with them after the adoption. Another way to effectively manage your expectations is to mentally walk through different scenarios and challenges that you might face after the adoption, such as answering your child’s questions about their birth parents. By thinking about these issues and preparing a response to them, you can be better prepared to handle any problems that arise.
Part of managing your expectations regarding the adoption is giving the bonding between you and your child time to develop instead of expecting it to happen naturally. Even birth parents do not always experience instant attachment to their newborn. Likewise, many adoptive parents need time to get to know their child before they begin to experience feelings of love and closeness.
Because bonding takes time, you should be prepared to give yourself and your child space and time as you all adjust to each other as a family. Do not become discouraged if you do not immediately feel love for your child, or if it seems as if the bonding is taking longer than you expected. Instead, continue to spend time with your child, talk with them, and work together through any challenges that arise.
Alternatively, your child may need time to get to know and trust you before they begin to view you as their parents. By allowing yourself and your child to take time to experience bonding, you can more easily avoid disappointment and build a successful relationship with your adopted child.
Finally, post adoption services play a valuable role in ensuring post adoption success. Most adoption agencies, including Providence Place, will offer you these services. They include counseling, support groups, and other types of help. These resources allow you to find professionals to talk to if you are facing challenges you do not know how to handle by yourself, or other adoptive families to connect with who will understand the adoption experience in a way that others cannot. By taking advantage of these services, you give yourself and your child a greater chance of successfully bonding and enjoying a lifetime as a family together.
The post adoption adjustment period can be both wonderful and challenging for the entire family. Successfully navigating this period requires you to take advantage of all the resources available to you. By staying close to your child, spending time with them, and seeking practical, emotional, and professional help when needed, you can facilitate the development of a strong and permanent relationship between you and your child.