The best things in life are unseen, that’s why we close our eyes during a kiss, a laugh and a dream and bonding is no exception- you can’t see it, but you can feel it. Bonding with your child is important and becomes almost critical if the child was adopted. Although we know adoption isn’t a birth mothers rejection, oftentime’s to adoptee’s it can feel that way. Is it important to reassure your child that they can depend on you and are safe and loved. Bonding is a process that cannot be rushed. A deep meaningful relationship can only develop through shared experiences, trust, and time. It’s essential for children to feel accepted, cherished, and loved in the purest form- unconditional and true. Remember, a family isn’t made from blood, it’s made from love.
“A family isn’t made from blood, it’s made from love.”
The Science Behind Bonding
Attachment is a strong, affectionate bond we have with special people in our lives that lead us to experience pleasure when we interact with them. We often feel comforted by those we have an attachment to in the times of stress. The beginning stages of bonding starts earlier and simpler than many think. According to famous Psychologist Bowlby, babies are born equipped with behaviors like crying, babbling and smiling to ensure adult attention and adults are actually biologically programmed to respond to infant signals. When a parent performs small steps such as holding their children close, singing sweetly to them, comforting them and rocking them softly to sleep, their child knows that their parent is dependable which creates a secure base for the child to begin exploring the world and feel loved while doing so. These things along with keeping a calm voice, skin-to-skin contact, and carrying your child are the beginning steps to making your adoptive baby feel safe, secure, loved and cherished beyond belief.
Vera Falhberg, pediatrician and specialist in the field of adoption attachments, categorizes the following as long-term effects from positive attachment:
- Helps a child to sort out perceptions of the world in which he lives
- Encourages the development of logical thinking
- Develops social emotions in a child
- Cultivates the formation of a conscience
- Helps an individual cope with stress, frustration, worries, and fears
- Fashions an appropriate balance between dependence and independence
- Sets the stage for the unfolding of healthy future relationships
The Importance of Comfort
Making sure your child has comfort is a nurturing, everyday desire all parents have. Comfort increases productivity and boosts self-esteem in children and who doesn’t want that? Contact-Comfort takes it a step further and examines the relationship between physical and emotional comfort with love and security. For example, we’ve all seen the reaction that a crying baby can have due to being picked up by its mother; the child relaxes and stops crying. This is believed to be a result of its first feeling of safety and security derived from this close contact. A famous experiment that is a true testimony of the importance of comfort was conducted by Harry Harlow in 1959. The experiment focused around baby monkeys that were separated from their birth mothers and reared to two mother-like figures; one terry cloth covered doll and one wire meshed doll. The babies held on tightly to the terry cloth covered dolls for security and comfort despite the fact that the wire meshed doll had a bottle attached to it. This experiment demonstrated the importance of a warm and comfortable environment to help a child thrive rather than a cold, uncomforting one.
Building Comfort for your Child
We suggest having an age-appropriate crib or bed, warm sheets and blankets, a few pieces of child size furniture and some toys they might enjoy. You may feel the need to over-indulge with bold prints and glitter, but decorating with too many bright colors may be too overwhelming. Decorating with soft, warm colors will put your child at ease and displaying few attractive toys that are soft and fuzzy will calm your child and help them feel right at home. Another tip we suggest is carrying you child in the front of your body, closest to your heart. The Moby wrap can help you keep your child close and aid in bonding while also freeing your hands.
Ready, Set, Bond!
True bonding is not measured by time spent together or the favors done for each other but by the comfort you find when you realize you have each other. Now that you have some background knowledge on the importance of bonding, let’s put our theories and science to work. Here are some tips we offer to help promote a healthy bond between you and your child.
Be Sensitive and Empathetic
Empathy is all about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with someone else’s heart, and seeing through someone else eyes. Be sensitive to the needs of your child and handle with care and compassion. If your infant is crying, take time to rock them gently and sing to them softly.
Sit and Play
Playfulness decreases any feelings of threat and harm. Sit alongside your child and follow their lead. Find activities that will interest your child and stimulate them emotionally and intellectually. “I see you” is a great game to play that promotes eye contact and helps the child become familiar with your facial features and laugh.
Keeping rituals and routines help let the child let him know what’s expected of them as well as what they can expect from you. Try to keep feeding times the same; the earlier your child realizes that when they’re hungry you will feed them the better it is for all. As soon as your baby shows signs of hunger, sit in a cozy spot with a drink of water, a nursing pillow and soft music playing. If your baby is easily distracted when feeding, you might try going in a quiet room with the lights low, says Jim Sears, M.D., author of The Baby Book.
Child or infant massages are a way for you to gently nurture and spend time with your baby. They promote parent – to child interact and are often soothing and calming to your child.
Relax and Enjoy It!
Bonding is not like instant glue which suddenly and irrevocable cements the parent-child relationship together forever. Bonding is a life-long process of parent-child interaction. Take a deep breath and enjoy bonding with you child; not only will this make you feel better, but also help your child relax.
What are some rituals your family does to promote healthy relationships?