By Julie Holmquist, author of A Call to Love: Preparing Your Heart and Soul for Adoption. Julie is a book editor at Focus on the Family. She and her husband, Jeff, expanded their family of four to six through adoption.
It’s common for prospective adoptive parents to ask themselves, “Will we be able to love a child we adopt?” When a couple poses that question, they’re usually wondering if they will feel an instant emotional bond or connection with their new child.
Yes, some parents may feel a bond with their new child in a short amount of time. Some stories in this book have described women who felt an instant bond to a child they adopted with their husbands. And no, many parents don’t feel an instant bond with the child they adopt, no matter the child’s age.
If you aren’t feeling emotionally connected to the child you’ve adopted, know that this isn’t unusual. It’s not your fault; you are not a “bad” parent. It often takes time to develop feelings of love.
You may need to love a child who may seem like a stranger, or even worse, a very unpleasant stranger who treats you in a nasty way or screams for an hour straight. Don’t give up. Love the child with your actions, knowing that for a time you may need to love selflessly without receiving much in return.
Doing your best to love like Jesus will go a long way toward helping your new child, but children who have been wounded will need more than your love. They will need your patient endurance and understanding, your knowledge of trauma-informed parenting, your humbleness, and your willingness to find additional support and do what’s necessary to help them heal.
In a Focus on the Family interview, adoptive father John Goyer said he realized that caring for a child from the foster-care system would be more difficult than what he and his wife, Tricia, had experienced as they raised their biological children.
“But I still wasn’t ready for what came. . . . It’s not enough just to say, ‘I love you and I’m here for you,’” he explained. “It takes a lot of therapy. It took a lot of time. And really it took a lot of . . . patience, working through the baggage that’s in their [lives].
“[Now] . . . I have a new appreciation for my Heavenly Father. When [my child] was having a screaming rage and I had to hold [her] in my arms, that would sometimes go on for an hour. And the whole time I’m just softly telling her, ‘We can’t act like this; this isn’t appropriate; but I still love you and you’re still my forever little girl.’
“As I would tell her that, I could hear the Heavenly Father speaking to me, ’cause I’m not perfect and I’ve made lots of mistakes. And He’d say, ‘There’s consequences for your actions, but I still love you, and you’re My forever son.’”
If you expect to form an instant bond with your child, you may be disappointed. Don’t be. Just begin to be Jesus with skin on, and as you do, ask God to pour some of His infinite love into your heart so it can flow out to your son or daughter. God’s love never disappoints!
Want to read more about preparing your heart and soul for adoption? Read this excerpt from A Call to Love, a resource of Focus on the Family.
Taken from A Call to Love: Preparing Your Heart and Soul for Adoption by Julie Holmquist. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.