Adopting parents often ask me how they can build a strong parent-child connection. They are nervous and excited about “getting it right.” I believe that building a strong parent-child connection comes down to several key points that must become lifelong commitments.
Educate yourself by reading adoption books and websites. Create a library of adoption literature and go-to resources. Commit to lifelong education, as the needs of your child and your relationship evolve. Here are some of my favorites:
- What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween, by Judy M. Miller, MA, CGE
- The Connected Child, by Karyn B. Purvis, PhD., David R. Cross, PhD., and Wendy Lyons Sunshine
- Adoptive Parenting, edited by Jean McLeod and Sheena Macrae, PhD.
- Attaching in Adoption, by Deborah D. Gray
- Parenting Your Adopted Child (I encourage you to subscribe to my newsletter)
- Empowered To Connect
- The Donaldson Adoption Institute (I encourage you to subscribe to their newsletter)
- The Child Welfare Information Gateway
Be compassionate and develop empathy.
Many of the children being adopted come from “hard places,” meaning they have been subjected to non-optimal care—neglect, abuse and little to no nurturing. Many don’t understand the concept of family. And all experience loss, sometimes many losses. These losses and experiences often impact their belief systems about themselves and their relationships, even and especially if there are no cognitive memories of these occurrences.
Understand that your love is not enough. You need to be willing to be open, and work through the tough stuff, possibly revisiting events that trigger you feeling the need to avoid the unpleasant and face your fears, and help your child heal.
Always ask yourself, “How can I help my child?”
All kids thrive when they understand what the limits are and what to expect. These include things like daily schedules, house rules and how we treat people. Boundaries build and reinforce respect and trust. Keep it simple and always provide your child with choices, possible asking them, when you feel they’re ready, for their input and agreeing on one you can live with. This provides them some control, an issue many adopted people struggle with.
For discussion: What other ideas can you share that are important or have helped you in building a strong parent-child connection?