Early Days Together

    Adoptive parents go through a similar pre-attachment process to their child that biological expectant parents experience. While adopted children may form attachments to caregivers, they rarely have the opportunity to experience pre-adoption attachment to adoptive parents.
    Often families expect an immediate bond with their child. This may or may not happen. If it does not, this is not a cause to be alarmed but a normal part of the adjustment process.  Children must learn to trust parents before forming attachments. While a bond may be instantaneous, secure attachment must take time to develop. Secure attachment can take several years.
    Babies who are special needs and non-special needs, as well as biological children can have issues with attachment and developmental delays. For a child, residing in an orphanage increases their risks.  The younger a child is at the time of adoption, the less trauma they may have experienced. Even so, during the early days together, many children may experience withdrawal, inconsolable crying, fear, shyness, avoidance, lack of interaction or expression, temper tantrums, or exhibit a fear of one parent.
   Babies bodies may feel a bit floppy if they have low muscle tone or muscle atrophy either from rickets or lying in a crib all day.  They may appear listless, and may not smile or. Thrashing heads, refusing eye contact, sucking their thumbs or rocking is also common. Some children exhibit the opposite: they may be clingy and can not bear to be out of your sight.
    Even very young babies experience grief and loss. Children who are being removed from everything they know, regardless of the positive or negative circumstance they were in, will experience trauma. The more attached they were to a particular caregiver, the more pronounced the grief.
    Babies may refuse to eat, even if they are hungry. Try frequent small meals with as few dietary changes as possible. What goes in must come out.  If a baby is not eating, she may not go to the bathroom. If the baby is difficult, not eating, etc., you must find out why. Consult with your in- country representative, physician, adoption agency, adoptive parent mentor, etc. who may have some suggestions for you.  If babies are sick they may need medical care. If not, they usually begin to perk up, and become more interactive within a few days.
    This can be very frustrating time to parents, especially inexperienced, first time parents who may feel insecure in their new role. I can not stress enough how important pre-adoption education is. Now is the time to read, read, read, and take as many adoptive parenting classes, on post adoption issues, attachment, international adoption, etc. The last thing you want to happen is find yourself in a hotel room with your baby, wondering what to do next.

Adapted from Adopting A Daughter from China, Hoppenhauer

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