10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Do When Bringing Their Child Home For the First Time
When bringing home a newborn, parents often take a few weeks to settle in at home and get to know each other, limiting outside interests and work commitments. Adoptive parents bringing home a new child, regardless of age, should follow the same guidelines and allow time and space to bond. Here are 10 things adoptive parents should do when bringing their child home for the first time.
1 – Prepare for the big day– if time allows, here are a few things to do in advance of your child’s arrival.
- Prepare the child’s bedroom and gather bedding, clothing & diapering necessities. Be sure to make your home safe if you are bringing home a crawling baby, curious toddler, active preschooler or young school-ager by childproofing electrical outlets, toilets, cords, blinds and doors.
- Stock the freezer with meals or ask a friend to plan a meal train for a daily meal delivery from friends and family. Be sure to let family & friends know that during the first few weeks you plan to limit the social interactions of your child and visits may not include time with your child.
- Select a pediatrician and schedule an appointment for 2 weeks after you get home (unless there is a medical circumstance that requires quick intervention). Call your healthcare insurance provider and find out what is needed to add your child to your insurance.
- Research and determine a child care plan, especially if both parents are working outside the home. Let the provider know when you will begin and enroll your child in advance.
2 – Cocoon for a few weeks– professionals recommend you spend quality bonding time with your newly adopted child.
- Minimize events such as going to church, grocery shopping, errand running or visiting public places where your child might be touched or overstimulated. Avoid a “Welcome Home Party” or other large event until you’ve been home for a month or two.
- Allow time for a season of ‘intense therapeutic parenting’; also called cocooning. The rule of thumb is that for every year your child was not in your home, you should cocoon for one month. If at all possible, take family leave from work in order to facilitate bonding. If you are going back to work or you have a preschooler, once the cocooning period is over, transition your child in a daycare, preschool or school over the course of a few days.
3 – Create routines to establish trust– predictability leads to feelings of safety and trust for all children. When basic needs are met in a consistent and loving way, children are free to trust the caregiver.
- Create a schedule in your home for meals, naps, bedtime and grooming so your child can anticipate your willingness and ability to meet his/her needs. This is how a secure attachment is fostered.
- Routines create trust too. Create routines for meals and bedtime. Here’s an example for a toddler/preschooler bedtime routine; a clean diaper, pajamas, teeth brushing, book reading, lights out, bottle, quiet songs, snuggles and goodnight kisses. Every family does things differently, so find your rhythm and stick to it. Your child will learn how things work in your family and that knowledge will make them feel safe and confident he/she belongs.
4 – Practice living in the present moment– during the cocoon time, don’t worry about forming bad habits or correcting existing ones. This is not the time to get rid of the bottle, ditch the pacifier, establish healthy eating or try potty training. If your child wakes in the night and you have to check in several times, it’s ok. You are not spoiling your child. Your goal is to help your child feel safe. This is the time where you teach your child that you are available and willing to meet your child’s need. When hungry, feed your child, even if that means cheerios and chicken nuggets for weeks. When scared, pick up your little one. When crying, hold your child and offer compassion and kindness. When you see off-track behavior with an older child, check in and ask how your child is feeling and ash what might be needed to help feel safe. If a little one needs to sleep in your room for a few weeks, it’s okay. You have a lifetime to teach your child many life lessons. The first life lesson is trust.
5 – Be kind to yourself– you will not get it all right. You are a parent now! You will mess-up a whole bunch of times. You will lose your patience. You will yell. You will feel inadequate. You will be inconsistent. It’s all normal. If your child’s first lesson is trust, your first lesson as a parent is self-forgiveness. Parenting is crazy hard. It just is. That is true for everyone, but especially a new, adoptive parent. When you blow it, remind yourself that you are doing a hard thing and that mistakes are normal. Let yourself know you are forgiven. Give yourself the freedom to start fresh. There is always tomorrow.