The following guest post was written by Amanda Carlson, a former newborn care nurse, specifically to provide suggestions to help adoptive and foster parents bond with their new children.
1. Routines - Developing a steady routine is good for any child regardless of age. One of the most common is that of the bedtime routine. Telling stories, tucking in blankets, and singing songs can create an interpersonal bond with the child, and the routine will become expected over time. It provides comfort to a disorganized child to know what will happen each night. Although it may be difficult to tuck in a teenager at night, other routines can be developed as the child gets older. Perhaps a family movie night, board games, or any other regularly scheduled activity for older children would suffice over goodnight kisses.
2. Story Time - Reading books to children can help foster an attachment, especially if it is a daily activity. Before racing out the door to school, a 5-minute story on the couch can help slow down the morning chaos and allow for a bonding moment. Even infants respond when you read regularly to them, because the sound of your voice creates the comfort they need in order to feel relaxed. With multiple children, make story time a family activity, and you will be amazed at the difference it could make over time. It may be the one time of day where everyone feels calm. To help kids deal with identity issues, try to find books or stories related to their biological background or their heritage. You may even work together to help your child write his or her story.
3. Provide Privacy for Older Kids - Older children adopted from foster care or orphanages will need privacy – as much as can safely be offered -- in order to adapt to their new surroundings. They need to feel solace within your home, and constant interruptions when they are in their new room could damage their feeling of security. Once they have grown accustomed to their surroundings, they might start to open themselves up without the fear of getting hurt.
4. Engagement through play - One of the most effective ways to reach children is to simply play with them. Children of all ages, infant to teen, enjoy playing games. You can start with simple rounds of peak-a-boo with an infant, and work up to more complex games with older children. Children are easily amused and even the simplest of games can bridge the gap between yourself and your adopted child.
5. Physical Connections - Babywearing or child-wearing is an activity that can assist you in developing a bond with your new child. There are many ways that this can be accomplished. Some parents will invest in front-pouches or backpacks that will allow a freedom of movement in a comfortable manner. Most of these are strap-on carriers that face the baby towards you. This provides for the “ostrich effect” of safety by allowing the baby to burying his or her head from the world. Others may decide that a cradle-like satchel is the best fit for them as this allows the baby to rest easily in a laying-down position. Less strain is put on the baby's neck in this position and could be more comfortable for those younger than 9-months old. These satchels usually lay the child in front of you at close to diaphragm height.
Co-sleeping can also develop a stronger bond between yourself and your new child. Positioning the baby or small child between yourself and a barrier such as a wall or body pillow can help the little one stay safe and comforted by your body heat. The continued presence of yourself helps the child develop a sense of safety while being near you.
Most importantly, never give up on a child -- even one with reactive attachment disorder --and hang in there to prove to your kids that no matter what they say or do, you are there for them.
-By Amanda Carlson
Amanda Carlson, a blogger as well as a former newborn care nurse, contributed this post. To stay connected to her previous career and share the knowledge she gained, she began writing for www.newborncare.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Carrie Goldman hosts Portrait of an Adoption. She is the author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear and blogs about adoption, parenting, and contemporary culture. To submit a guest post, send an email to email@example.com.