When you finally sign the last of the papers, you might be hoping for the feeling of happily ever after. While your adoption story should always be a tale of joy and love, there will always be some complicated feelings, too.
Expect Your Child to be Distant
Children need time to adjust to their new home. Don’t be hurt if your child doesn’t feel comfortable calling you mom or dad at first or all the time. Allow your child to feel safe and loved in your family in whatever way they need.
Some children may not feel comfortable with physical affection. Never force a child to give hugs and kisses or to tell you they love you. Your child may feel cold from time to time, but this is normal. Your child needs to establish a balance between independence and nurturing.
Don’t Resent Their Birth Family
Your child may want to talk about their “real” family. Don’t criticize your child for asking about their birth parents or for expressing hurt. Your child may feel abandoned by their birth parents. They may also miss them and sometimes say they wish they were with their birth parents.
There should be no rivalry between you and their birth parents. Respect their feelings and let them know it is okay to talk about their feelings with you.
You may feel tempted to spoil your child to win their trust and make them feel loved. When they misbehave, you may feel like you cannot discipline them for fear of damaging your relationship. When they ask for a toy or a treat, you may feel like you have to give them what they want to “make up’’ for any hardships they may have faced.
Remember that children require some structure in order to feel safe and stable in their new home. A child may become quickly bored with the instant gratification of getting treats or getting out of chores. Be sure to support their emotional health with a gentle but firm approach to discipline. Remind them that the rules are not just for them, but everyone. We all have to clean up, be kind, and go to work and school.
Building trust with your child comes from being consistent, fair, and transparent, not from treats and bribes. If you try to win over a child through gifts and lax discipline, they may enjoy some of the experience, but they will not develop a healthy and trusting relationship with you as their parent.
Be Kind to Yourself
It isn’t only your child that might feel uncomfortable. You may have times where you feel insecure or nervous around your child. You may wonder if you are a good parent or if you could be doing more. That is a natural feeling. Remember that all parents feel this way some of the time.
Permit yourself to feel how you feel, just as you give your child validation for their feelings.
Ultimately, nothing will ever go quite as you imagined. In the end, you will find that every family is different. With flexibility, love, and trust, you and your child will feel at home with one another before too long.