Adjusting to life with an adopted child/ren

I recently worked with adoptive parents who were struggling to come to terms with adoption and dealing with attachment issues, which were having a subsequent affect on their 20-year marriage.

The couple, from Calne, Wiltshire, are in their early forties and recently adopted a child having tried unsuccessfully to have children, both naturally and with IVF. One parent is a business owner, while the other is employed part time. As busy individuals, it’s understandable that they might struggle to adjust to their new roles as adoptive parents.

The concerns

One parent had a particular concern about not experiencing the ‘instant bond’ that they expected to feel when they welcomed the adopted child into their home. Despite meeting with the child multiple times over the course of several months and working very closely with social workers to ensure that their decision to adopt was the right one, the couple worried that the lack of instant, deep attachment to the child was a sign that they hadn’t done the right thing. The couple also found it tougher than expected to adjust to having a child in their home.

Blaming themselves for the attachment issues, the couple found themselves arguing regularly. They explained that once the initial excitement of the adoption disappeared, they felt left to their own devices and struggled to cope with their feelings toward the adoption. They were eager to enjoy the time with the child, but were concerned that their worries about letting the child down was overshadowing this process.

The solutions

The couple visited me at my therapy room in Avebury, Wiltshire, for their counselling sessions. After discussing their concerns and describing their feelings about the adoption, they were relieved to hear that many adoptive parents experience the very same worries and emotions. In fact, many biological parents also face attachment issues.

With this realisation in mind, the couple were encouraged to feel less compelled to live up to expectations placed on themselves or their adopted child. Adjusting to a child in the home and coping with adoptive children is a slow process, and should be enjoyed rather than worried about. By focusing on enjoying their time with the child rather than their perceived attachment issues, they will become better equipped at providing care, warmth and support, both to the child and to one another.

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