The Importance of Bonding with an Adoptive Child | Child Abuse Prevention, Treatment & Welfare Services | Children's Bureau



The Importance of Bonding with an Adoptive Child

Written by: Keila Asaoka

“Science now tells us that it is the reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship and multiple opportunities for developing effective coping skills that are essential building blocks for the capacity to do well in the face of significant adversity,” according to Harvard University. Along with Harvard, there is a vast presence of research on the importance of bonding with an adopted child. These scientifically proven benefits of bonding with your adopted child can serve as tremendous motivators in cultivating this precious connection.

The Importance of Bonding With an Adoptive Child

Bonding Nurtures Human Trust

From as young as infancy, children learn how to trust. In a study conducted by Daniel Kassow at Thrive By Five Washington, caregivers that were attuned to their child’s behavior and who were quick to respond to their child’s cries stimulated the child’s sense of safety and certainty toward the caregiver. Bonding and supportive care also encourage confidence in your child’s development. A child can learn to determine who is worthy of being trusted—in effect, acquiring wisdom in choosing friends and building stronger relationships.

Bonding Carries Through the Generations

Another study done by Frances A. Champagne about maternal care in mammals found that rats who received supportive care from their moms were more likely to be better mothers for their own pups. This outcome positively affected two generations! The same effects of bonding in rats have been applied to the mother-child connection in humans. When a caregiver shows love and compassion towards their child, the child is more inclined to show the same amount of love towards their children.

Bonding Cultivates Positive Classroom Experiences

According to Harvard University, the warmth and support of the caregiver contribute to the child’s ability to form healthy relationships with school peers. When a child has friends at school, they look forward to learning, have a more positive attitude toward school, and achieve more in the classroom. They also develop a strong work ethic and valuable social skills, both of which are manifested by those who succeed in their careers.

Although there is a strong emphasis on the importance of bonding with your adopted child, we understand that developing this connection could be a slow, gradual process. With anyone, building these bridges takes time, effort and determination. For adopted children who have previously experienced neglect, abuse or trauma, patience may be the main thing that you and your child need. However, Children’s Bureau offers support groups and training programs to help resource parents strengthen this critical connection.

Activities for Bonding Between Parents and Adopted Children

In addition to the wealth of resources available to you at Children’s Bureau, here are a few approaches you can take to enhance the bond between you and your adopted child:

Develop Routines with Your Child

Having a set schedule allows the child to feel a sense of control. They know what is coming next and can look forward to a time that they really enjoy. Read a book before bedtime, say a prayer before a meal, start a tickle fight after the bath and incorporate other fun things that your child can anticipate every day.

Start Family Traditions

Rituals make a child feel special, stirring within their hearts something exciting to hope for. If your adopted child is of a different ethnicity than you, celebrate a holiday from their ancestral country. You can also let them choose what the family will eat on their birthday or throw a party every year to celebrate the day they were adopted!

Take Time to Play

All ages love to play. Whether it’s building a giant fort of blankets and couch cushions, starting a water balloon fight, or blowing bubbles into the air, take a portion of the day to play! With heaps of fun come long lasting memories and stronger connections that you can cultivate between you and your child.

Take Family Photos

Having a big family photo on the mantle or placed on the table by their bedside reminds your adopted child that they are part of your family. As the adoptive parent, you can also create a Life Book with your child to honor their familial roots and where they came from which will help to acknowledge that they are a special member of the family unit.

Remind Them of Your Love

Leave surprising notes in their lunch, write a message on their bathroom mirror to remind them that you love them and care for them, even when you are not physically there. Affirm your love for your adopted child when they complete a chore, finish a homework assignment or do something nice for you. Even if they happen to do something wrong, affirm them that you still love and support them no matter what.

Instill Confidence

Enabling your child to make their own choices, like what movie to watch, shirt to wear or family game to play, makes them feel valued. If they see that their decision made you happy, it makes them feel confident, and they will be more likely to share their ideas with you in the future.

How to Achieve Adopted Child Bonding Goals

As most people know, nurturing a connection with an infant looks different than bonding with a toddler or even a young child. Therefore, the following are a few techniques that can help you reach Adopted Child Bonding Goals:

  • Provide steady eye contact with your child. Your eye contact communicates that you love and support them. It stimulates attachment and trust.
  • Touch is vital in building a connection so try baby massage or swaddling for infants or hugging young children to foster secure attachment. Practicing skin to skin contact shows babies that you are responsive and trustworthy.
  • Give them your undivided attention during meal times.

Ultimately, fostering this precious bond must be done while upholding realistic expectations of you and your adopted child. Know their background. Be aware of where they came from and how they were raised before you adopted them. Even though physical touch is important while bonding, it may trigger traumatic feelings and memories for some young children. Their nationality and cultural background also impact how they may view the world, and may explain specific actions and behaviors. As an adoptive parent, you must educate yourself on the way they lived before adoption, so you set expectations for a healthy, successful bonding experience moving forward. Your children’s behavior will be greatly influenced by the long-term relationships in their life and the support they receive from their primary caregiver.

Nurturing a reliable connection between you and your adopted child sets them up for the capacity to do well in the face of significant adversity. Bonding enables your child to build a healthy concept of trust, provides wisdom in choosing friendships, instills in them a supportive heart that permeates through the generations, and equips them for their future endeavors.  Be proactive in supporting, bonding and loving your child as it is fundamental to their future success.

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