The process of adoption is truly a roller coaster of emotions: the good, the bad and everything in between. Each stumbling block is another obstacle to overcome on the way to what is hoped to be an incredibly happy ending. Adoption comes with high expectations of joy, love, hope and a true sense of family. But what happens when things don’t go exactly as planned? Though it may seem unrealistic to some that have not experienced the process, parents can fail to feel attached or connected to their adopted child. It is important to understand that this is a real situation that many adoptive parents may face.
It is extremely difficult for parents in these situations to feel comfortable enough to share their struggle. They may feel ashamed, embarrassed or even a strong sense of guilt. However, just like many steps we take in life, things don’t always go as planned. Understanding the reasons behind these feelings of disconnect is important to be able to move forward and work on building the relationship with the child.
The first reason that may prevent an instant or strong attachment is when a child comes from a very traumatic past. Children who are adopted after infancy have more than likely experienced some sort of trauma in their lifetime. These experiences can leave deep scars, trust issues, anger and other emotional and mental side effects.
Past abuse can make it hard for a child to get close to any adult, including someone who has taken them into their home. While the adoptive parents did not have any role in the negative experiences, they may have to deal with the turmoil that was left behind. This may certainly create a rocky relationship in the beginning and slow the process of growing close as a family.
Another reason that may hinder an attachment between parents and an adopted child is developing unrealistic expectations. Every child is their own individual, with various personality traits. The age of the child who is being adopted will also play into how the experience should be handled. Parents may lean too much on the information given by previous caregivers, parent or case workers as to how the child behaves.
However, adoptive moms and dads should never make assumptions about how things should go. Sometimes, the child may act in unexpected ways once they are in a more permanent situation. Adults may also hold on to the idea that children should immediately be grateful and expect them to act this way at all times. It is important to remember that very high or unrealistic expectations can lead to failure; thus creating distance and the inability to feel attached.
There are several other reasons that can make an adoptive parent feel a bit disconnected or distant from their child. However, anyone in this situation should know that they are not alone. There are things they can do to build that relationship and work on growing closer as a family. Support groups and therapists are great resources for helping navigate these difficult situations as well encouraging communication. Bringing this sometimes taboo subject out of the shadows will not only help adoptive parents but children that are going through the process as well.