After The Adoption - The First Weeks at Home
Bringing an adopted baby into your house is no small task. It's completely natural to be apprehensive about it and to look for ways to ensure that you will bond with the adopted baby. Only a very small percentage of adopted infants come straight to a home from the hospital. Most babies and children spend time in foster care or in an orphanage first. It is, therefore, very important to have tips for bonding with your adopted child when he finally comes to your home.
Bonding with a Newborn
It is natural for your baby or child to be overwhelmed when he first comes to your house. Particularly if you've adopted internationally, you're bringing home a child who is jetlagged, who may not have been touched or cuddled much, and who isn't familiar with hearing your language. There are a few things you can do before the baby even comes to you. Sleep with a blanket for a few weeks and then mail it, unwashed, to the orphanage. Ask the caregivers to put it in your baby's crib so that he can adjust to your smells. He can then, hopefully, become attached to it and bring it home with him. If you're bringing home a small baby, try to wear the baby as much as possible in a carrier. Try to maintain contact between the mother and the baby exclusively at first (or the father and the baby). This will allow the baby to bond with one person before moving on to others. Play music for the baby during regular times of the day. Play the same CD before naptime, before bedtime, and while eating. If you can find a CD from the baby's original culture, that can help as well. Use baby massage during the day to help your baby to relax. There are many classes that teach baby massage and instructors who can come to your house for one-on-one guidance.
Bonding with an Older Child
If you're adopting an older child, it is important to recognize and understand the environment from which the child comes. You want to support this child and help him to understand that you will meet his physical and emotional needs. Children who have experienced abuse or neglect, or even those who have simply lived in difficult situations, may have trouble bonding at first. Restrict visitors at first and limit their physical contact with outsiders. Visitors can help around the house, but should not hug or impose on the child at first. Even limit outings, such as to the mall, to avoid creating too much stimulation or confusion for the child. Try to play interactive games like reading and peek-a-boo which help to create attachment. If your child is open to physical contact, try to snuggle and nurture your child as much as possible. If they aren't ready for this, then don't push it until they initiate the contact. Create a scrapbook that shows where the child has been, and that includes pictures and memories you are building together. You want them to know that you aren't shutting out their past - but that you are creating a warm present and future together.
Adopted children may need more patience and understanding from you as they adjust to your home. Sleeping may be more difficult as first. When children get tired, they become less trusting, and they may act out more at this time. Your routines may also be different from what they are used to and you need to give them time to adjust. Be patient and understanding. Just because a child wants you to sit by him as he falls asleep at first, doesn't mean he will ask you to do this for the next year! Let your child communicate about his past experiences and his past home. Don't try to push away these experiences. As the child becomes more dependent on you, his attachment to you will grow. He will learn to trust with time and to know that he's in a safe environment.
When you bring a baby or child home, try to think like him. See your home through his eyes. Things that seem normal to you may be strange to him. Don't take his behavior personally; rather try to slowly guide the child towards better behavior and understand his needs. You can't spoil an adopted baby or child when they first arrive at your home. Be patient - and know that your work will pay off in the end!