or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Adoptive and Foster Parenting › Need help bonding with foster-to-adopt child
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Need help bonding with foster-to-adopt child

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
My husband and I have taken in a little boy who will turn 3 this summer. We are fostering him and are his pre-adoptive family. Parental rights are already terminated.

This little boy's neglect was severe; therefore, his needs are intense and his behaviors are extreme. He has been with us almost a month and I need ideas to help me bond with him. I think that in order for him to attach to us, I have to try to fall in love with him first. Frankly, I'm having a hard time even liking him right now because of his behaviors. We are his second placement; his first guardian intended to adopt, but realized he was too difficult to handle. Intellectually I know none of this is his fault. His behaviors are symptoms of what he suffered the first 2 years of his life. But I still feel negatively toward him when he bites me, hits the baby on the head, and throws things at us.

Honestly, I dread him waking up in the morning. I am eager for naptime every day and feel I'm walking on pins and needles hoping his tantrums won't be too bad. He requires constant supervision. He eats all sorts of inappropriate things (even burrs from outdoors!) and my other children are at risk of being injured if I even go to the bathroom alone. I feel this will all get better someday, but it's stressful in the meantime. Probably 90% of the problem is his severe language delay which leaves him frustrated when we don't understand his needs. (He is already doing better and we're working aggressively to help him.)

I guess I just need ideas of things to do or mindsets to adopt that will help me intentionally begin to bond with him. Part of reducing the stress, I think, is getting him to attach to us and trust us. I feel like crap that he can probably pick up my negative vibes sometimes. I need to start the process toward attachment.

I've done a few things already. He came to us from a heavy smoker's home and I can't stand the odor, so I washed everything. That actually helped me feel more positively toward him. I donated all his clothes that just aren't something I would choose for my kids (I jokingly called it redneck baby couture). I've noticed that I find him cuter when I put certain outfits on him, so I do that. When he exhibits an unappealing behavior, I'm trying to sort out what is a 2-year-old (emptying the bookshelves onto the floor) and what is unique to him (literally eating the books, and I don't mean gnawing or taking a bite -- I mean consuming books). This helps me stress less about the typical toddler behavior.

It seems like just when things feel better, he exhibits a behavior that is truly disturbing. I don't even want to say what some of them are. When it is directed at a member oof our family my loving feelings backslide.

Thanks for listening. Please help me bond!
post #2 of 14

I have to run out the door in a minute, but I'll definitely come back this afternoon. What information do you have about this child? From what you know about his history, do you suspect an attachment disorder, PTSD, prenatal alcohol drug exposure? Are you concerned about adopting out of birth order?


(I know I didn't ask any positive stuff. I'm really in a hurry.)


If you don't go there already, the message boards at fosterparents.com are an excellent resource.

post #3 of 14

i have just a minute, but like polliwog, I'll be back :)

I just wanted to comment on your first thought. Bonding and attatchment is a process, both for you and for him. You don't need to feel immediate love and attatchment towards him, its something that often comes slowly and is a long process. If you feel like you have to bond right away and that you have to love him from day 1, you end up feeling dissapointed, and that is not good for either of you!


I would also look into some sort of therapy/counseling services for him. I know he is young, but it might be helpful for him. They do have these services through EI as well.

post #4 of 14

You and your family have made a difficult decision by taking this child into your home.  What brought you to this decision?  What was it about this boy that caused you and your husband to open up your lives to him?


Polliwog makes a good point about checking out fosterparents.com -- I also encourage you to find some in-person foster/adoptive parent support group in your area.  Previous jobs I've had have hosted these groups and there was a definite sense of relief for the parents, just to have others who understood their situation.  All of this support for YOU, will help your attachment to this troubled little being.


Please keep in mind that depending on how severe his abuse/neglect was, and his own temperament, there are ways in which he may never "get better" or "be normal."  Ever, ever.  He will likely become a happy, functional guy... but there may be issues around which he will need support for the rest of his life.  And you will love him for it, and he'll love you back.  He just may show it in his own, probably funky, way.


I have never fostered, but I have worked with many children with severe abuse/neglect histories, and what I used to do was picture the "real them" as a little glowing impenetrable nugget.  That part of them that nothing could ruin or destroy, and it was just so beautiful.  The nugget is not just the things that make them cute, or fun, but the core of who they are, abuse/nelgect behaviors out of the picture.  All the "yuck" that happened to them, it was just stuff that covered that nugget and while it might distort my perception of the beautiful nugget sometimes, I could always (even in the middle of the most horrible violent outburst) uncover it and be a witness to it.  I could make a choice to do that (I'm not saying it was always easy, mind you).  So think about not just "what is typical 2-year-old behavior," but "Who is this boy?  What is typical of him, as a person?"  I think that's what is at the heart of attaching to kids who've had a lot of trauma -- standing witness to that beautiful nugget.  Give it power, it will grow.

post #5 of 14

  I would also suggest anticipating his waking with the expectation that "today will be difficult" AND know that you will be able to handle it!  I understand your dread (as much as someone can, who's never been in your shoes)!  I think if you approach him, and the day, with the expectation that he will do something inappropriate/violent/etc., not to be pessimistic, but realistic... then you don't have that pins and needles feeling.  I'm sure you've been through some very difficult times in your life; this is just another one.  And you can handle it -- you are smart, strong, and capable.  (I'm not at all trying to minimize what you're going through -- just to give you a different framework that I hope will be helpful!)

Originally Posted by IncompetentHousewife View Post

Honestly, I dread him waking up in the morning. I am eager for naptime every day and feel I'm walking on pins and needles hoping his tantrums won't be too bad. He requires constant supervision. He eats all sorts of inappropriate things (even burrs from outdoors!) and my other children are at risk of being injured if I even go to the bathroom alone. I feel this will all get better someday, but it's stressful in the meantime.
post #6 of 14

In preparation for bringing our 3yo home from Ethiopia, I watched "Because We Waited" from Heart of the Matter seminars.  The information in that seminar dealt with a LOT of the questions you are asking, and gave practical tips on dealing with the issues.  I liked that it was very attachment-focused too.


I would get your little guy into therapy ASAP.  Also find a mother's helper or respite care EVERY WEEK so you can have a bit of breathing time.  You need to care for yourself first, so you can care for the rest of the family.


I can't obviously go into everything I learned in the seminar training... you really ought to watch it!  But the main thing is, give it time.  You don't have to love him right away.  It sounds like the difficult behaviors would make any child hard to love.  Bonding will come, for both of you.  Give yourself permission not to "feel" loving for a while.  Instead take satisfaction in caring well for him and call it good for six months, then re-evaluate.  Give yourself kudos for keeping your cool in a tough spot each day.


Then, you need to allow him to digress in development and "need" you like a baby would.  His brain isn't wired to have his needs met, and you need to meet his needs thousands of times before the damage is undone.  So feed him, hold him, babywear him in a backpack, touch him, tickle him.  Keeping him close to you will help keep the other kids safe too. 


For the language delay, get speech therapy and start learning ASL.  Or flash cards with pictures of basic needs.  A flip-book of pictures of food, toilet, toys, blankie, bed, cuddle, cup, etc. might help a lot until more language is developed.


Also, don't expect overnight changes.  And they will be slow, from what I have learned in training and such.  Sometimes it will look like regression.  I would keep a journal and jot down the highlights each day.  Then in a month go back an re-read to see some of the larger changes that you may have missed in the busyness of each day.


I wish I could give you advice based on experience.  This time next year, I'll probably be posting the same sorts of questions, after we've had our girlie home for a few months and reality sets in.  But I want to encourage you.  It sounds really tough, but you also sound very determined.  For now, let that carry you onward.  :)

post #7 of 14

Wow, I think you sound like me five years ago.  The good news is that I am still here, my family is still intact, and my little girl is making progress!  It is slow going.


How old are your other children?  One really backwards thing that REALLY helps me is putting the other kids first.  It sounds contrary to attachment or even good parenting, but seeing the other kids take a back seat to negative behavior made me resent my daughter.  Once I acepted that I could just focus on my other kdis for at least a few moments a day, I could accept the situation better.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Wow, wow, wow! It has been three long weeks since I posted about bonding with my pre-adoptive foster son. Your responses were so wonderful! You have all really made me look at this in a healthy way. Our bonding does not need to be instant. I'm not crazy; his behaviors are hard to like. Give it time. Take care of my other kids. Breathe. Know the days will be hard.


Things are getting better. He still has extreme behaviors, of course, because that's part of who he is and will be. But he is also a cute, friendly little boy who already climbs willingly into my lap as if to ask for cuddles (new this week), who loves books, who has already learned new words and is trying really hard. Already I'm finding him more likeable — most of the time. And I recognize that lovable can and will come later.


You asked about his background. He almost certainly has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (working on official diagnosis), was exposed to drugs in utero, born nicotine addicted. He's mentally retarded, even though his workers don't like to use that term it describes his challenges. He will be 3 later this summer, but functions more like a child about 18 months, and even lower in communication and coping skills. Language is hard for him, which I think is the crux of many of his frustrations, though not all.


Thank you all! I can, and will, be this little boy's Mommy.


Oh, and in retrospect, my husband was very busy working late nights planting farm crops these last 6 weeks. We brought this little guy into our home 6 weeks ago. Daddy will be home more now and I will get much more relief. I KNOW that has been part of my stress.

post #9 of 14

I'm glad to hear things are starting to improve.  There are a lot of great resources out there for support if he does have FAS.  I've heard "Broken Cord" is a good book about a dad's journey with a son who he adopted with FAS, but I've never read it personally.


Hopefully having dad back home will relieve some stress and be good for this little guy.

post #10 of 14

I am glad to hear that things are improving too.  I sounds like you have chosen a difficult road, but those can be the most rewarding, I think.  Hang in there and give yourself a break.  you don't have to do a difficult job perfectly, just have to keep going.  (telling myself that right now too!)  :)

post #11 of 14

I am so happy to hear that things are getting better!  hug.gif

post #12 of 14

Wow this sounds just like our now almost 5yo ds. We got him 2 weeks after he turned 2. It has been years of speech, OT, and now therapist and meds. Our little guy has dx of severe adhd, pdd-nos, PICA, MR due to a severe brain trauma (aka shaken baby) and most recently reactive attachment disorder. It has been a long , long road but it is getting better. The best thing we did was to get a respite worker. Its nice to not only get a break, but she even comes with us if we are going somewhere just specifically to be his "buddy".

post #13 of 14

You already have wonderful suggestions and I am glad to see you are feeling better already. I thought I would share some things that help me with bonding, though.


1. Taking photographs of my children. Capturing their little faces is therapeutic as is looking back through the photos later.

2. Shopping for them. Decorating a space, buying them clothes, anything with them in mind that helps me to actively think of them while I shop.

3. Quiet time. Rocking, reading, even watching a tv show together allows me time to study their little features, get a snuggle, and fall in love

post #14 of 14

Napping or sleeping with my kids really helps me feel more bonded to them.  I don't know if it is the phermones or what, but it really works wonders.  Whenever I am not feeling very attached or one of them is feeling insecure (like my son when our foster kids went back to their mom) we try to do that.  Also, dates with my adopted kids helped them out a lot when we were overwhelmed with having 2 very young special-needs foster kids. 

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Adoptive and Foster Parenting
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Adoptive and Foster Parenting › Need help bonding with foster-to-adopt child