Becoming a family

Tips to help you and your adopted child bond as a family

By Focus on the Family Canada staff

For most of us, being part of a family is something we seldom reflect on. Our role in our family is so familiar and comfortable that we take many aspects of family life for granted. Children who have spent time in multiple foster homes or in orphanages, however, do not have a clear sense of what it means to live in a family. 

Every family has its own “style” or “flavour.” Traditions, rituals, expectations and routines vary from family to family. Each new family member, including your adopted child, will inevitably alter your pattern somewhat. When your adopted child arrives, you will need time to adjust to one another. Some refer to this process as “cocooning,” and it is just as essential with an older child as it is with a newborn. 

The most successful adoptive families I have observed are those who took their need to cocoon very seriously, investing in both quality and quantity of time together. Here are a few tips from these families that will help you as you welcome your adopted child into your home:

  1. Take advantage of government-sponsored parental leave from work – for dad as well as mom;
  2. Don’t leave adopted kids in someone else’s care;
  3. Minimize visitors to the home for a few weeks to months;
  4. Consider home schooling school-age children while your family is still adjusting to one another; 
  5. Cut back on “extracurricular” activities for a period of time. Say no to volunteer work, trips and other opportunities that do not include the family;
  6. Talk about how your family does things. Your explanation can be as simple as, “In our family, we eat supper together every night,” or “In our family, we say hello and goodbye with hugs;”
  7. Do things together as a family: meals, chores, games, walks, worship etc.;
  8. By all means take your child to church, but be aware that they may need to stay with you in the service for a while instead of participating in the children’s program;
  9. Expect some clinginess and anxiety when you leave and a need for reassurance that you will return. Don’t be surprised or alarmed if this carries on longer than you anticipated;
  10. Remember that, if you have other children, their position in the family is being adjusted as well. Take time for each child and listen to their thoughts on how the adjustment is going.