10 Parenting Tips to Help You Connect with Your Adopted Child

You adopted a child.  Your friends and family were so happy for you.  Decorating their room and imagining the life that was to come seemed perfect. Until it wasn’t. 

For most families adopting a child brings a unique set of challenges that biological families don’t face.  So what do you do?  Don’t give up! 

10 Parenting Tips to Help You Connect with Your Adopted Child

Take a deep breath. Grab a glass of wine and try a couple of these simple tips. You can do this. You are not alone in this struggle so here are 10 important parenting tips to help you connect with your adopted child and live a healthy, and happy life together.

1. The simple fact that they are being adopted, means that there was some stress in the biological mother’s life that led to the adoption. 

So even if you were able to meet your child at birth, there is a good chance that the baby has higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in their system due to the mother experiencing a stressful pregnancy.  This will lead to your child being a bit more anxious than other babies/children as their levels may stay higher for even up to a few years.  So knowing your child is going to be a bit tenser and anxious may mean you take extra steps to create a peaceful home to help reduce that stress in their bodies.

2. A lot of adopted children struggle with sleep. 

This can be really aggravating for parents and lead to conflict, as your child is struggling at the exact same time that you are exhausted.  This is simply because their body is more anxious than other children and they might lack the skills to be able to soothe themselves.  I would encourage you to find some cute nightlights, calming oils or lotions, and cozy pyjamas to help them settle down.  You may also want to practice some soothing skills during the day, like progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing.  If they learn the skills during the day, they are better able to use them at bedtime.  And routine.  Find a simple routine and use it consistently every night.  Bathtime, lotion time, brush teeth, read some books, go to sleep.  Same time.  Every day.

3. Let them know you are safe. A simple way to do this is to make yourself smaller. 

If your child is scared or frustrated, sit down.  When you are physically smaller, you appear safer. In the beginning, you may need to do this more often. When you are attempting to connect with your child, slow down and make yourself small and approachable.

4. Be very aware of your tone of voice. 

When speaking to your child, try to consciously make your tone a little softer and more playful.  It may feel awkward at first, but especially in those moments where they are becoming upset, continue to create a peaceful home in the tone that you use to help them calm down.  It’s kind of like that saying, “No one ever calms down by having someone yell, Calm Down!”  Model for them the kind of communication you would like in your home.

5. Be very aware of your movement and pace. 

If they have been through a lot in their young lives, they may have a heightened awareness of how people are moving around them.  Quick sudden movements may be scary for them.  So ensure that you are moving slowly.  They can watch and learn to trust you as you move around the home.

6. Be predictable. 

Set up some routines that they can learn to rely on.  As much as humanly possible, this is not a season to be running late to pick them up.  This is the time for them to learn that you are there for them.  Go through your day using similar habits.  This will lessen any chances for surprises and increase their ability to trust.

7. This brings me to another big one, meal times. 

This is a hot topic.  For many adopted children, they were not provided with enough nutrients in utero.  For some, they may also have not had a healthy diet in their early life.  Or you may have adopted internationally and now you are introducing a whole new culture of foods to them. I will say it again… go slow.  If your child is old enough to ask for certain foods, say yes.  Even if it goes against what your sister in law feeds her kids, say yes.  You can worry about nutrients and organics later.  Food is a comfort for everyone.  If you want your child to connect to you and your home, let them feel comfortable by eating familiar foods.  Then, a few months down the road you can slowly start conversations about nutrition and small changes can be introduced.

8. Another one on the topic of food is to feed your child more frequently. 

The sensation of hunger for an adopted child can be tied to neglect.  All of us get a little hangry now and then, but for your child, the sensation of hunger may be emotionally painful.  So if you are offering snacks every 1 – 2hrs you will lessen the chances they will experience hunger and increase the opportunity for them to relax.  Again, you can decrease this time frame later, but for the first few months, bring a snack bag with you everywhere you go.

9. Slow down. 

A lot of adopted parents have waited a long time for their child.  You have dreamed of having them reach for you.  It will come.  Allow your child to explore your relationship, just like they are exploring their new world.  Give them space to be nervous and observant. 

10. Take care of yourself.  

You will only be able to bring happiness into your home if you are at peace and content yourself.  This might mean increasing your religious practices, taking yoga, going for some walks, or eating some chocolate.  Whatever you need to do to be calm and open for connection, bring that into your life so that it overflows into your home.

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Trish Jonker

Trish is a foster parent to a group of 5 brothers and sisters, with her best friend, Roy. They are both child therapists, but this was a whole new world!  She wrote / narrated a book about their journey, The Call to Love.  It is available on Amazon, Audible & iTunes.  She also has a Masters in Counselling Psychology, and she is an LCPC in Illinois and certified in the treatment of child trauma.  Check out my website at www.trishjonker.com

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