10 Ways to Bond with Your Child as a Foster or Adoptive Dad
Being chosen as a foster or adoptive dad can be one of life’s most fulfilling experiences. But, it can also make a guy a little nervous. When the day comes for you to welcome your child to their new home, it’s normal to worry if you’ll be able to connect with them. The good news is, adoptive and foster fathers are able to form bonds just as strongly as bio-dads.
So what can a foster/adoptive dad do to strengthen the bond with his new child?
1. Prepare to be patient
There’s no need to feel rushed in becoming super close with your new kid, as bonding is a process that happens over time. Practice patience and remember you have a lifetime to establish your relationship and deepen your parent-child connection.
2. Expect some bumps in the road
Expect that your child may be fussy, have trouble sleeping, or not eat much the first few weeks while they transition to their new environment. They may also try to test your limits by acting out, so focus on praising good behaviors to reinforce them.
3. Share responsibilities
Hopefully you’ll have support in tending to your child’s needs either from a significant other, helpful relative, friend, or babysitter. Just remember that a child is most open to bonding after their needs have been met, so make an effort to help with diaper-duty and feedings for younger kids and homework and school pick-ups for older ones. Bandage their owies, cuddle them often, and let them know you’re always there for them.
4. Bond through language
Regardless of your child’s age, talking to them will increase your connection. Read them stories and ask them about their interests, thoughts, and feelings. Kneel down to their level and make eye contact as you talk. Talking to them boosts their vocabulary and makes them feel worthy of your attention.
5. Show em’ the ropes
A great way to reinforce your role as their dad is to teach them life skills. Tell your kid what you’re doing while you’re making dinner, shaving, or washing your car. Give them play-by-plays even when you’re just hanging out or doing housework. This will give your child great memories of all of the things that daddy taught them.
6. Hang family photos
Displaying pictures of your new child is a great way to show them that they’re part of the family and help them feel connected to their home environment. Take pictures of memorable moments and hang them throughout the house for visitors to see. Remember to use phrases like “our home” rather than “my house” – this will help them feel less like an outsider. If you have an older child, ask if there are any pictures of their biological family they’d like to hang up. Being open and acknowledging their emotions will encourage them to trust you.
7. Allow alone time
Being alone with your kid can be a little scary at first. You may ask yourself things like, “am I going to break the baby?!” or “how can I keep a 10-year-old entertained for 3 hours?!” But alone time is very important for bonding. Hang out with your child while your significant other runs errands. Go for walks, start a craft project together, or play at the park. Quality time with your kid will build your connection and boost your confidence as a new dad.
8. Start some traditions
Establish a few special traditions to give your child something meaningful to look forward to. Some ideas include:
A nightly lullaby and bedtime story
Playing catch at the park on Saturdays
Friday movie night
Sunday morning breakfast with “dad’s famous pancakes”
If your child was adopted from a different country or culture, pick an important holiday from their heritage and celebrate it each year
9. Nurture your relationship
Transitioning into parenthood can challenge any marriage or relationship, especially with the added stress of adjusting an adopted child to a new environment. If you’re in a committed relationship, remember that you’re a team and need to work together in making decisions and overcoming challenges. Lean on each other for support and be open about your feelings. When things have settled in, make time for a monthly date night.
Bumping heads with someone you live with? Click here
10. Connect through play
Playing with dad makes a child feel connected, loved, and wanted. Choose unstructured, age-appropriate activities that allow your child to get creative and lead through play. Your child will look forward to this special time with you and love the positive attention.
Click here for more tips on igniting your child’s learning through play
11. Get support
Welcoming a fostered or adopted child can be an amazingly positive experience, but it can also present some challenges. If your child seems to be distressed or angry, or if you’re concerned about how your new child is impacting your marriage or other children, our specialists can help.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in Child and Educational psychology. If you are concerned about the mental or emotional well-being of your fostered or adopted child, Dr. Shinn can recommend support.
Dr. Elsa Torres, Psy.D., is a specialist in counseling. If your family welcomed a new child and needs support in adjusting and bonding, Dr. Torres can guide you.
Dr. Amy Weir, Psy.D., is a specialist in infant and toddler neurodevelopment. If you are concerned your little one may have autism or other intellectual challenges that are preventing them from bonding with you, Dr. Weir can provide an evaluation.
Dr. Daniela Davis, Psy.D. is a specialist in Women’s Issues. If you are a mother struggling to connect with your adopted child, Dr. Davis can listen and guide you toward building a healthy connection.
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How to Cite This Blog Article:
Shinn. M.M. (2019). 10 Ways to Bond with Your Child as a Foster or Adoptive Dad. Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/10-ways-to-bond-with-your-child-as-a-foster-or-adoptive-dad