When you adopt a child, regardless of his or her age, you should expect an adjustment period once the child reaches your home. Even infants require some time to fall into new routines and feel comfortable with their new families.
In this blog, we provide five tips so you can help your newly adopted child feel like he or she truly belongs in your home.
1. Avoid Overwhelming Situations Initially
Moving from one home to another is a big change, even if you do it with a family you’ve had your whole life. Moving into a home where your new parents and siblings already feel comfortable can become overwhelming.
Avoid putting additional stress on a newly adopted child for at least a few weeks. Keep celebrations simple and create guest lists composed primarily of people your child already knows. Do not purchase excessive gifts, offer huge lists of household rules, or plan a trip too close to your child’s move-in date.
Many of these fun or essential elements of your family life will come naturally and gradually as your child begins to feel more comfortable.
2. Be Patient With Your Child’s Habits and Emotions
Many children up for adoption, especially those living in children’s homes or foster homes, develop habits that make them feel safer. Sometimes, these habits may seem strange or undesirable to you.
However, if the behavior is harmless, like keeping a comfort item, you should allow your child to continue at least until he or she settles in. If your child exhibits behavioral problems, approach the situation calmly and gradually.
Also encourage your child to express how he or she feels about the transition. Even if your child feels happy to be home, he or she might miss previous foster parents or feel anxious about attending a new school. These emotions are normal and should be expressed.
3. Offer Frequent Low-Pressure Bonding Opportunities
To help your child adjust effectively, provide bonding opportunities often. Many of these opportunities will come naturally, such as cooking a meal together, sharing a conversation during a car ride, or preparing for a normal day.
Avoid high-pressure bonding opportunities, such as parties, during the initial adjustment period. This step helps you and your child get to know each other in the context of daily life rather than special events.
4. Provide Surroundings That are Familiar and Comfortable
If possible, provide your child with elements that feel familiar and comfortable. You may want to take pictures of your child’s previous living situation to get an idea of what he or she is used to. Another option is to encourage your child to bring items from a previous home, such as books or toys.
If your child is old enough to offer personal opinions on his or her living situation, ask before making changes to his or her room. This provides your child with a feeling of some control over the situation.
5. Steer Clear of Unforgiving Consequences
If you have other children in your home, they likely already know the rules and the potential consequences of misbehavior.
Avoid time-outs and other consequences that feel unforgiving, especially in response to breaking rules your child did not know. Time-outs can make your child feel isolated and diminish any trust you’ve already built.
In addition to the guidelines listed above, do your best to minimize disruptions to your child’s adjustment period. When you can, meet with your legal representation without your child. If possible, get all paperwork and meetings out of the way before you child moves into your home. These steps will limit the reminders of the recent adoption, allowing your child to truly feel at home.
Follow these guidelines to help you and your child transition into a whole and happy family unit.