Struggles Bonding With Children

In Adoption and Foster Care, there is much focus on things such as attachment and the problems most children have regarding all of the changes they face. After all, most kids have been moved around often, security shaken and trust broken. Many have faced abuse and abandonment. Above all, most of the children have never had the chance to bond with their caregivers and potential families in the same way children who are in biological families are able.

This can certainly create struggles. And, finding good counsel and resources is crucial to help these children adjust and become healthy.

However, there is another aspect of Adoption and Foster Care that is often overlooked, and almost ignored. I think it happens because it is a fairly uncomfortable conversation. But, I believe that to create healthy families, it is very important for us to have these conversations. What am I referring to?

I am referring to the reality that some Adoptive and Foster Care families have struggles bonding with children.

When a child enters your home that is not your biological child there is a natural bond that is absent. Sure, most every family would say that they love all of the children in their home; biological, adopted or fostered. And, this is certainly true. But, every adoptive and foster parent will, at some point, admit they have issues bonding with a child.

In fact, if every parent were transparent, they would admit there are even tough days bonding with their biological children.

In our experience of both Adoption and Foster Care, we have found this to be a reality in our home. There have been times of struggle to bond and feel a healthy attachment.

Moms, typically you carry your biological children for 9 months in your womb.

This is a long period of emotional bonding and physical bonding. In adoption and Foster Care, this 9 month introductory, bonding period is absent. You have just been handed a child that is foreign to you. You struggle with feelings of guilt for not having the same attachment and bonding as a biological child. You wonder if something is wrong with you. That guilt, discomfort and confusion can eventually wear you down emotionally and even physically as you work to adjust to the addition of a child. Even if you have never been pregnant or have had biological children, these feelings are much the same. 

Dads don’t carry their kids for 9 months, so that internal bonding and attachment is not the same. Whether biological, adopted or fostered, when a child enters our home, we simply make a choice to accept or not. Acceptance doesn’t make it easy. With Adoption or Foster Care we have the transition of a stranger in our home. There is now this little human who is invading our space! It can be a struggle to find a level of comfort in the beginning. There will be days you will wonder how this strange being ended up living inside your home. You are not the only one who needs a little pep talk from time to time!

Quite frankly, if your spouse or partner is struggling with the transition, you will struggle too. If you are not a single parent, you are meant to be a team. But, even as a team, there will be days when you are not feeling the same way. This can create further struggle. If you are a single parent, you will feel as though you are facing this struggle alone. That is not easy, or comforting. And, you cannot do this alone, your need the support of others.

There are so many areas where you will experience this strangeness and struggle.

  • International Adoption, especially of older children, brings cultural differences and contexts into your home. You are welcoming things you may not fully understand, even if you’ve read every book or blog about your child’s culture of origin.
  • Some children come with an extensive history of abuse or neglect. When they have struggles trusting you, you have struggles trusting them.
  • Older children have established behaviors that are likely foreign to your family and household. They will have habits or behaviors that may annoy you, frustrate you or confuse you.
  • Bodily functions are a real consideration. Older children that still wet the bed, physical limitations, habits and more may become frustrating because you are unaccustomed to those things.
  • Language barriers are a struggle for international adoption as well as domestic and foster care. Even kids who speak the same dialect as you may truly speak a different language. The context of understanding and function of verbiage may have separate meaning for you both. Not being able to speak the same language can be very hard!

There are many more areas we could address; a novel could be written. Bottom line, there are some very real struggles that occur with Adoption and Foster Care. We always focus on the children, which is important. But, if the whole family is not healthy, we can never truly give proper care to the children. That is why it is crucial to talk about every aspect of this journey.

How can you overcome this? Quite honestly, it may not be easy! It would be best to seek counseling, read great books and connect with other adoptive or foster families where you can share your experiences and offer support. Most importantly, do not hide from the struggles. When you hide your struggles they become more intense. Guilt may even cause you to hide these feelings from your spouse or partner. Don't do that! You need each other, you are a team. Realize you are not alone and others struggle the same way you struggle.