"I adopted a child internationally and then got home and realized the child we adopted is nothing like the child we'd anticipated. We are having trouble bonding with the child and the child with us. I think it's more common than people really talk about and I'm afraid. I don't feel like I can talk about it with the adoption community and yet it seems no one else would understand either."
This comment has been made by MANY parents in MANY different life situations! I've asked Christine Reed, mommy to 11 and author of Smiles and Trials, if she would be a guest-blogger for this post. Christine has children ranging from 2-13. Her newest addition is little Dennis (photo on sidebar). He was a roommate to Emma back in Ukraine and is doing so well and thriving in the love of the Reed family! They are also in process of adopting another sweet little boy from the same orphanage named Aleksey. Aleksey has Spina Bifida and a smile to melt your heart :) Christine and her husband have several biological children, have adopted some of their children out of disruptions and have brought some directly to their home from overseas. They have much more knowledge and experience in this area and Christine posted recently a post which I believe needs as much visibility as possible because this IS something that people deal with and she has expressed it so well. In her own words, "You Can Fall In Love."
Sometimes parents and adoptive children are blessed to fall head over heels for each other in love upon meeting. Often, it just takes a little time and both parent and child have successfully bonded.THANK YOU, Christine, for allowing me to share your post! Christine plans to continue blogging on this subject since there is so much more that can be said on it. Follow her blog to get more helpful info on this subject and many others!
But for some parents..... they wait and wait for those ooey-gooey feelings to come and they don't.
So, why should we expect an adopted child to fall in love with us? Sure it can happen and often does, but for many children it does not come easy. I hear all too often this lack of feelings being labeled Reactive Attachment Disorder.
Well, is it possible for parents to have attachment issues too? Just like in the case of a child loving a parent, it is not always that easy for a parent to fall in love with a child.
Sometimes, you may have the best intentions of making a conscience decision to fake it till you make it. Good. Often that alone is enough to help you get past whatever it is that is preventing you from falling in love with your child.
But what about if you just can't?
Maybe if they laughed differently, you would be able to fall in love.
Maybe if you could tolerate the way they smelled, you would be able to fall in love.
But what if it is not just one thing, and you have realized that everything about your adopted child is repulsive to you?
Well, I am telling you right now that you are not alone.
Maybe not only do you compare your child's laugh to fingernails on a chalkboard and their smell to your pet dog, but maybe you find something wrong with every aspect of your child.
And though you try really hard to not notice it or feel the way you do, you can't help but hate the way they chew with their mouth open, jump rope with an awkward skip, slam the car door each and every time, rub their ear for comfort, and draw their circles by starting at the bottom.
Literally you feel like everything your child does is done to irritate you.
Is this you? Is this you and you don't want to admit it? Fine. You don't have to. But humor me and read.
I believe wholeheartedly that there are adoptive parents out there who feel this way and just can't bring themselves to admit it. They feel ashamed because they know that what they are doing is not fair yet they can't help themselves.
This parent may have other adopted children that they don't feel this way about further complicating things. Why is it just this child that I have ill feelings for? Why is it this child that I can't bring myself to accept?
I still haven't figured out the answer to these questions, but I do think there are ways to get past these ill feelings and fall in love with your child.
But you have to want to. You have to initially force yourself to fake it till you make it.
I personally believe that God will also help you if you ask Him.
So how do you do it?
Well, for starters, you need to be honest. With yourself and with your child. Some things you will have to just learn to accept but there are some things that I think your child can change as well. If you can't stand the way your child goes around making clicking noises with their tongue, tell them. That is something they can stop. If your child waves their arms in your face when they are talking to you, ask them to politely stop. If your child's feet dragging, milk slurping, and hair combing irritates you to no end, be honest and express your feelings. Better to be honest and give your child the chance to stop doing something that annoys you rather than have them continue doing it only to drive a wedge further between the two of you. But if it is their smell that you can't stand, get used to it. They can't change their body chemistry and so you need to condition yourself to accept it. Comb your child's hair and put your nose up to their scalp. Pray that God will help you to love that smell, instinctively protect the child that has that scent. If it is the mere thought of hugging your child or sitting next to them---- make sure you do it twenty times a day. Hopefully you get the point.
Remember, love is a choice. You can choose to love your child-- but it is just that--- a choice and many times the choice to not try is easier.
I don't know why some of us have a hard time bonding to our child, but we do. And I feel that if these things are not talked about in the open, adoptive parents will continue to struggle with this. I have seen too many adoptions start out this way only to end in disruption because the child picked up on the ill feelings and started responding in much the same way as they were being treated by the parent.
My observation is that adoptive parents have attachment issues just as often as kids do if not more. Sadly, the child is most often times blamed for the issues that result from the parents feeling the way I described above. To talk more openly about this, and acknowledge your actions and feelings for what they truly are, I know that it is possible to overcome this roadblock and go on to parent your child.
P.S. It is good to reach out. Having a support network is so important. I hope this helps in even the smallest way. ;)