Completing the adoption was a large project, but don’t plan on taking a break just yet. Your new child needs some special support getting settled into your home and family.
Bond As With a Baby
No matter the child’s age, a newly adopted child deserves some of the nurturing a baby would get – nurturing the child may have missed in a chaotic series of transitions. Food, touch, eye contact and affection are key.
- Give the child sweets, feeding them directly from your hand to his mouth.
- Brush her hair, invite her to have a pedicure or manicure when Mum does her own nails.
- Smile often! Play silly games together. Laugh together!
- Give lots of sticking plasters for boo-boos.
- Hold the child while reading stories.
- Touch quickly and lightly if hugs are not readily accepted.
A child who has not had consistent care may not readily trust that your home is ‘forever’. The more predictable and consistent the routines, the more secure the child generally will feel.
- Maintain predictable household routines. Having meals at regular hours and consistent routines for getting up and going to bed help the newly adopted child feel safe.
- Be sure to say ‘goodbye’ and ‘hello’ when leaving and arriving. Let the adopted child know where you are going and when you will return. If you are just going to another part of the house, let the child know where to find you.
- For children who understand calendars, a household calendar helps put upcoming events into a predictable framework.
Assist with Overwhelming Feelings
- Help the child collect positive thoughts and memories. Use stickers, pictures, leaves collected on walks, to create collages in a book or for the wall.
- When reading to the child, ask for ideas from time to time about how different characters feel and what they might do next. All of these help the child explore their own feelings and how feelings may affect their behavior.
Help the Child Feel Included
The newly adopted child must be treated as ‘one of the family’ from the start. Sometimes, it takes a bit of effort to think about all the new ‘basics’ that joining a family entails.
- Something as simple as ‘we always have doughnuts on Sunday morning’ is a family ritual. It is part of what defines life in your home. Help the child learn about the family’s rituals and routines so he or she can start to look forward to them.
- Add pictures of the adopted child to family photo groupings on the wall, mantel, or refrigerator. Take new photos of the entire family together on outings.
- Redirect behavior with such statements as ‘In our family, we do it this way …”
- Include the child in family activities, whether to a local park, on a weekend camping trip, or to visit extended family.
Settling in takes time. When you draw on the expert knowledge of other adoptive families, your special child can become comfortable more quickly in your home and family.
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