Adopting any child over the age of a year makes bonding and attachment a completely different experience. It catches many parents, especially moms, by surprise and often leaves them feeling alone, lost, guilty, angry, sad, and just about any other unpleasant feeling known to humankind. The juxtaposition of emotions felt by parents can be so disheartening that it feels like the proverbial rug has been pulled out from under them. Splat! There you are on your back looking up at the ceiling, unable to get up. Others are circled around you looking down and wondering what is wrong.
You drag yourself up and blandly go around doing your parenting duties, silently wondering, ‘What is wrong with me?’ The guilt can creep in and start to fester. You have wanted to be a parent for so long, so where is the love? The anxiety can start smoldering, reducing clarity, and leading a parent to think there is something wrong with the child. If left alone, these feelings and associated self talk can lead to some very difficult outcomes for parents and kids.
If you are experiencing anything like this the worst thing to do is to keep it to yourself. You are not alone!! This is a very common reaction, but one that is not commonly known. It is OK to feel this way; they are just feelings not a mandate for the way things have to be. The sooner you take action to turn these feelings around the sooner you will get on track to finding the love.
Here are some action steps:
* Accept your feelings! Don’t judge them or yourself. They just are.
* Talk to your social worker about these feelings.
* Talk to your friends; you might be surprised at how many adoptive and birth parents have had similar experiences.
* Be gentle with yourself, pamper yourself, or treat yourself to something that fills you up emotionally. A soak in the tub, a good read, a day at a spa, get a manicure or pedicure or facial, let go of your expectations about the child. This can be hard to do, but clears the slate for your child’s lovability to surface.
* Try to find something to do with your child that is fun for both of you. Share with them something that you liked to do when you were their age. Having fun together is the best way to jump start those loving feelings with an older child.
If all of this feels overwhelming, you may have slipped into what is called post-adoption depression. This is much like postpartum depression, and if you have experienced postpartum depression after the birth of a child, you are more likely to develop the adoption equivalent. It is important to be evaluated by a doctor as medication may be needed help pull you up out of your depression restore your energy. Basic actions steps to stave off the blues are exercising every day, drinking lots of water, eating wholesome food, and getting a good night’s sleep.
Holt’s Family Support and Counseling Services can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org