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Reluctant Family

Partner with "Buyer's Remorse"

I recently adopted a 6-year-old from China, my 3rd child.  The whole family was part of the decision, as my older daughters had long wanted a little sister.  My partner actually selected the “waiting child” we adopted.  The transition has had typical difficulties: temper tantrums at first, sleeping problems, communication issues with English as a second language, and sibling jealousy.  What I was not prepared for was for my partner to decide that “this is too much trouble; give the child back.”  Of course, I’m not willing to do that.  Has anyone else experienced anything like this?  How did you deal with it?


I would just try to give it time. I know my husband didn’t bond as quickly as I did to our little one, but he eventually came along. Any change is difficult. I would talk with your partner and see what the feelings and concerns behind that comment are. Do they think things are always going to be this way? Good luck!

Posted by sjsj on Jul 07, 2012 at 1:53am

I can empathize with your situation. We had many of the same issues after bringing our son home from India when he was 3.5 years old.

In my case, my wife decided that she really wanted a baby, and, as she said at the time, not a 4 year old! She had decided this at some point during the process and failed to communicate her change of heart with me. I think the main issue was that my wife did not adequately prepare herself for the challenges of transitioning an internationally adopted child to life at home with a new family. After several rough weeks, my wife finally attached with our son, and once she realized that she did love him things got better.

How long has your new daughter been home? Is your partner showing any signs of post adoption depression?

I would suggest seeking advice or counseling. You should be able to take advantage of post-placement services from your agency. I know many parents are uncomfortable talking about issues with their agency, but that is what they are there for.

Know that you’re not alone and that it’s quite common for two people to be on different pages about adoption, no matter where you are in the process.

Posted by wichuck76 on Jul 07, 2012 at 2:23am

You need to seek counseling for you and your entire family.  Buyer’s remorse… that is nice.  I thought adoption was not buying a child… PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE FOR SALE.

Posted by EST on Jul 07, 2012 at 5:30am

Buyer’s remorse? What if you regret being purchased? What do you call that?

That ‘buyers remorse’ even occurs to you in regard to someone you have accepted as a permanent family member as a daughter ...

If your partner looks at your daughter as something you purchased, I agree with your partner, you should return her. Not because of her ‘problems’, but because you are not worthy to be her parent. She deserves parents who love her as a human being and not as a pet.

She has six years of life already, six years of a life you know nothing about in a country you know nothing about. That six years probably wasn’t full of rainbows and puppy dogs. You’re supposed to be helping her and giving her a home, not judging her unworthy.

Counseling would be a good start. I’d look into commitment first, as in how much commitment my partner is capable of. If I was your child, I’d wonder what would happen if I was too much trouble.

Posted by ScottK on Jul 07, 2012 at 9:19am

I think some people need to take a deep breath, geez! I am sure the “buyer’s remorse” was just a way to convey a change of feelings after the placement. I highly doubt anyone reaching out for help thinks they bought a child. Good luck, Francie. Hopefully the two of you can talk and get back on the same page. Was your partner there for the adoption of your other two children? That could also be an issue, if this is their first time.

Posted by sjsj on Jul 07, 2012 at 10:58am

Give the child back? Oh, the adult is having trouble adjusting to the child’s problems adjusting to a totally new life? And the adult suggests to give the child back? After that, the adult can sit back, take a vacation, recoup, and start fresh Monday morning. But the child sent back, well, that child will have to adjust somehow. Let’s see, bedwetting, firestarting, biting, screaming, nightmares, headbanging, shaking, fearful, rage, sobbing, unable to trust, withdrawing into self, failure to thrive, detached, .... Thank the Good Lord that all God’s children are loved. We will save an orphan today and throw it back when it’s defective.

Posted by KallyLB on Jul 07, 2012 at 11:33am

Give the partner back.

Posted by Jeanne on Jul 07, 2012 at 9:03pm

Adopting a six year old is a challenging job if the child is from the USA or international.
You have institutionalization
jet lag
food issues
Grief re losing caregiver
language issues
cultural issues
a third child (which is always difficult)
because she is probably not ready to be the playmate the others expected

There is no giving her back, it isn’t an option. That said I guess you could ask your agency to replace her if the challenge is too great for your family. That will lead to grief on your part, feelings of impermanence for your children and, I suspect resentment between the adults.

If all goes well a six year old would take about two-three years to integrate totally into the family.

I would talk to some agencies and other parents and find a therapist with some knowledge re adoption and get some help.

It is not unusual to feel this way but these feelings need resolution before you become a divided family with you and your new placement vs the partner and the other children.

Best of luck on working this out. You are her mom and she and you and the family need help

Posted by Regina on Jul 07, 2012 at 10:20pm

To some of the other commentators: There is no need to be rude and downright vicious.

True, the term “buyer’s remorse” is not the best choice. However, the OP needed to convey what she wanted to say in a short subject.

This is supposed to be a place for help and support. Many parents, biological, adoptive, or otherwise, experience depression, anxiety, and other very strong emotions after their children come home.

Post-adoption depression, for example, is very real, and needs to be discussed. The OP’s partner could very well be suffering. As other, kinder commentators have suggested, the OP and her partner should seek counseling, preferably from someone who has experience with adoption. Their agency should be able to refer someone.

Adoptive parents are regular people, but we’re not allowed to be. We’re either saints who save a child, or “adopters” who kidnapped one. The truth is, all parents have issues, some greater than others. We need to be able to talk about them and get the help we need, not to be judged by others who don’t have a complete picture.

Posted by rredhead on Jul 08, 2012 at 1:26am

Even bio parents sometimes joke in dark moments about sending the baby back where it came from but it is not an option as others have stated.
The child will have even more adverse affects if you terminate this adoption. I am sure your partner has a heart and if he understands that he may be able to soldier on.
Obviously you all need help and the others have posted about how to get some.
You are a family in crisis and he has to grow up. It always amazes me how people blame the issue (infertility, etc.) and don’t realize that being a committed family and in a committed relationship means going through crises together at some point. None of us escapes it.
I hope you both researched adopting older children as they have special issues. If not please educate your self now. You can do this. You can support this little one and eventually turn things around. Hang in there!!

Posted by babydreams on Jul 08, 2012 at 1:30am

BTW, people should realize when posting here that adoptees read this board too. Buyers remorse is offensive to them so let’s all learn that. If you can’t take the criticism in stride and respect it, then there are plenty of other bulletin board where adoptive parents talk amongst them selves. I am on this board and one for just APs. I like being in both. I have learned so much from the adoptees here. It starts with having an open mind and an open heart.

Posted by babydreams on Jul 08, 2012 at 1:34am

Thank you babydreams… somedays I don’t even want to turn on the computer and type in this site… it just stings so much of the time…

It is a family joke that my dad wanted a little girl when they asked for sex preference and that is always followed up with… what was I thinking?

I used to tell that and laugh- its not funny though.  It is not funny at all.

I am so sad for this little girl- who undoubtedly has been through so much already.  I wish prospective adoptive parents were so much more educated… bringing a human child home is sooo much different then bringing home a puppy- but so many of them think it is just as simple as that.  It is not that simple.

I read over and over again about how these women insist on adopting and the fathers eventually go along with it- but jeez- at what cost to the child—- to end up being someones “buyers Remorse.”

It hurts.  A lot… and not in a selfish way- but in the way that keeps me up at night thinking about these children and the lives ahead of them.

Posted by EST on Jul 08, 2012 at 3:17am

You’re welcome EST… and it occured to me later that if we are PAPs or APs, one day our child will be an adoptee. I want to learn now before my child is here and before my child is grown.
That family joke is cringe-worthy—ugh!!

Posted by babydreams on Jul 08, 2012 at 4:16am

This is one of those threads where you just have to hope someone is out trolling because if this is really this child’s situation, it’s a crying shame.

The thought of directing the phrase “buyer’s remorse” at a fellow human being is beyond words.  People are not commodities to be bought and sold.  Adoption is not a means of accessorizing one’s home.  I pray this child’s life has not been disrupted by folks just wanting to kick the tires.

As for the partner, well, I wouldn’t personally consider someone a partner if they would even think of suggesting that any of my children could be sent away because they were too much trouble.  To the contrary, I would consider them a dangerous liability.  That’s not vicious.  That’s the truth, so help me God.

Posted by Jeanne on Jul 08, 2012 at 6:25am


Well it does seem like “Buyer’s remorse” as repugnant as the term is with all it’s ugly implications is kind of appropriate as a summary of how your partner is acting. 

I assume from your request for help,(and your comments that you were unprepared for this kind of response and of course will not do this) that the problem for you is the discord with your partner, and a partner who is acting in ways that are an unexpected shock to you.

So I would ask how informed was your partner about adoption?  (Did he or she take any of those attachment, older child adoption courses?) If not, one might at least understand where the ignorance comes from, and that this could be ignorance, not cruelty. (Best remedied by taking some of these classes now.)

How long have you been partners? How important is this person to you?  Is this kind of insensitivity to others or to children unusual, or common with him/her?  I would tell your partner that adopting a child is not like buying a possession that you just return if it doesn’t suit you.  If your partner means a lot to you, I would take the good advice of many above and go into counseling.

It is always hard to understand a situation clearly without actually meeting the people involved or being present…maybe this was said in a way that the intent of the statement was to express regret about the adoption? (nothing wrong with an honest conversation privately between parents),  a joke?  (as in I wish I could give her back? like baby dreams mentions) or was it really as it sounds a demand to dump the child?? If the last, I would strongly be tempted myself to leave the partner.

I don’t on reading your post see that your child is acting that horrendously, nor that you yourself feel that she is.  Of course a post is not the real thing and those of us reading it are not living it, and we all have our weak spots.  Still if your partner treats your daughter with animosity or disregard, or like a piece of trash, this is a serious problem that you need to deal with right away.  You have a responsibility first to the child. If there are serious problems with the child adjusting, these also need attention.

I do know of people who have annulled an adoption (for lack of better words to describe it), though not well enough to know the exact details of how.  This was a situation where the child’s behavior was much more extreme from what I can tell and there was a lot of animosity on all sides for 2 years.  The whole family as well as the child wanted out.

Hope this or some of the many thoughtful suggestions above is a help to you.

Posted by Happy Camper on Jul 08, 2012 at 7:06am

ok, it took me a while to respond to this post- had to get over the whole “buyer’s remorse” phrase, truly an unfortunate choice of words. now, I’m afraid I’d have to be very blunt with your partner and say “this is a child, not a puppy.” you can’t give her back, even if she’s “too much trouble.” I don’t think I could be with anyone who could be that selfish and cruel to a little child. I agree that therapy and time is probably your best course at this time. If your partner is truly set on “returning” the child, or can’t treat the child the way she deserves, then it’s time to ditch the partner. that may sound harsh, but your child has to come first, that is your responsibility as a parent. I’m sorry you have found yourself in such a difficult situation, and wish you and your daughter all the best.

Posted by rn4kidz on Jul 08, 2012 at 11:51pm

Thank you to all who have responded.  First, let me apologize to all who were offended by my characterization of my partner’s attitude as “buyer’s remorse.”  It is an offensive attitude to me, and I labelled it as I perceived it, not intending to agree with or condone the attitude and all its implications. I certainly do not think of any child as a commodity, especially not my own.  Believe me, my first response, with tears streaming down my face, was “How can you say that?  Would you say that about a child I gave birth to?  To me, it is no different.  She is my daughter.”

My partner and I have been in a committed relationship for over 30 years.  We were together for the first two adoptions, as well, and have gone to adoptive parent education classes each time.  Given that history, I was more than shocked and appalled at the ultimatum to “Get rid of the child or I’m leaving.”  Obviously, I said that “getting rid” of my daughter was not an option. But, my partner did not leave.  I am having extreme difficulty getting past the cruelty of the remark, that someone could even think that way; I feel like I’m living with a total stranger, not the person I married.  Even if an apology is forthcoming, I don’t know if I can forgive this.  Thank you, Happy Camper and m4kidz, for recognizing how I am feeling about my relationship right now.

If the only people involved were the two of us and the new daughter, I know that I would kick my partner out.  Period.  That’s not easy for me to say, because I consider commitment to be permanent, whether as a spouse or a parent.  But I also have to consider my older two daughters, young teens.  They would be traumatized by me breaking up the family.  I am responsible for their well-being, too.  I also fear that their normal jealousy of adjusting to a new sibling would transform into blaming their little sister for ruining the family, when this poor innocent child has done nothing wrong.  I am almost paralyzed by the fear that I will psychologically harm my children by whatever choice I make at this point.

For all who have suggested it, I have started therapy and the older girls will be going this week, too.  So far, my partner is unwilling to go.  Yes, I think post-adoption depression is a very likely problem here, but hard to address with someone who is not willing to get help.  Thanks Sisi and Wichuck76 for sharing your experiences and encouragement.  We have only been home for 2 1/2 months, and I know that there is a transition period of years.  I just didn’t expect to have more difficulty adjusting to my partner’s behavior than to the child’s.  And, I will reiterate, there is nothing unusual about my daughter’s behavior.  She is bright, strong-willed, resilient, and loving, in spite of a very difficult first six years.  I would have had a problem dealing with my partner’s ultimatum even if my daughter were setting fires, but she isn’t doing anything unusual or unexpected.

Posted by Francie on Jul 11, 2012 at 4:12am

Francie.  I am truly sorry for your situation.  It must be awful.  You sound like a loving mother who understands what all three of your children need.  I’m glad that you don’t think your youngest daughter’s behavior is anything unusual.  That suggests that you are prepared to help her adjust to her new life, culture, and family any way you can.  But your husband’s behavior is very disturbing.  I’m glad that you are seeking therapy.  You must be in such a tight spot right now if you are afraid that any move you make may harm your children.  I wish you well and I hope you can sort all of this out in a way that is best for your family.

Posted by sacohe on Jul 11, 2012 at 9:49am

Your most give your self time; a child is a comitment and of course her formation years (1-5) live in a institution.  You will have to teach her everyting she did not had in that formation years.  But with pacient and love you will able to chage.  This will not be today I did it and tomorow is fix NO give your self’s time.

Posted by Katherinne on Jul 13, 2012 at 6:41pm

Dear Francie,
It’s no not easy! Our little girl was 2 when she came home and, if anyone had ‘buyers remorse’ for want of a better phrase, it was me.  Let’s not get too touchy about terms here.  Even though we’d talked and wanted to adopt for (10) years, and thoroughly researched the issues facing adopting a toddler, I was still blown away by just how hard I found it (we have 2 biological children). The new arrival also changed hugely the dynamics in the family, as the arrival of any new child does.  2 years down the line and i’m ok.  I love all of my children.  I still sometimes think ‘how much easier all of our lives would have been if we’d not adopted our third’.  I don’t give myself a hard time about these feelings and let them pass.  I know that we are a family, for better or worse.  Francie, you will get there.  It’s a cliche but ‘time’ is the key word here.  Best regards, Rx

Posted by Ruby44 on Jul 13, 2012 at 7:43pm

If you partner is not willing to attend counseling, would he be willing to read?  Two books that might help normalize his stress and help him envision a different path to resolving it are “the post-adoption blues: overcoming the unforeseen challenges of adoption” by Karen J. Foli and John R. Thompson and “Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child” by Trish Maskew.  I am SO sorry for what your family is going through.

Posted by neveradullmoment on Jul 13, 2012 at 9:13pm

Dear Adoptive Families Circle,

While I fully appreciate and support the idea of free/open speech, I must comment about how disappointed I am to have opened my email and found such inconsiderate and non-supportive language to be forwarded in an email from your magazine.  While perhaps intended as a cliche, I cringe at the thought of an adoptee reading an adoptive parent using the term “buyers remorse” when referring to a child who joined a family through adoption and even more so, a credible adoptive magazine reinforcing this terminology by forwarding it out in an email to its membership.  It saddens me that this was not corrected, or better thought out to begin with.  I do expect more from a community that should be safe not only for adoptive parents but for adoptees in all stages of their journey.  It’s one thing to hear poorly worded descriptions of the various components of adoption from an uneducated stranger (or even an inconsiderate friend or family member) but I think there is a significant impact when this comes from a community that ought to know better!

Dear Francie,

I am so saddened to hear about the heartbreak you are experiencing as a result of your husband’s response to your most recent adoption.  I can’t begin to imagine what an emotional and difficult time this must be and while I criticize the use of the term “buyer’s remorse” and wish with all my heart that you had found a kinder way to express this in such a public forum, I understand that it comes from a place of deep hurt and raw emotion at this point in your life.

I realize that I know you only from a few paragraphs that you have shared here and it is clear even through this small peak into your life that you are committed and dedicated mother to three children.  It is so heartening to hear how you have welcomed your newest daughter to your family and have patiently worked through the challenges of her and your family’s adjustments. 

I wish you well in your journey and hope that each member of your family finds peace in the decisions that will follow.  I am heartened by your commitment to all three of your children and by making sure that you are not only taking care of yourself through counselling but also including your older daughters in the process so that they may also work through the stresses that are undoubtedly impacting on your whole family.

Sincerely wishing you all the best.

Posted by wishonastar on Jul 13, 2012 at 9:32pm

How your partner is feeling is a common part of the adoption process. He needs a chance to be able to express himself freely without judgement. A counselor who has gone through the same thing would be best, if you are lucky enough to find one.

My husband “chose” the boy (he was 12 then) that has been living with us for nearly a year now. The boy adored him from the first but has a difficult time with the mother issue. However, it is him, my husband, who has experienced depression and said many things (in private, not in front of the child) that would shock the responders on here who have apparently been lucky enough not to experience the VERY COMMON negative emotions.

I’ve known wonderful birth mothers who never hurt their babies, but expressed an intense desire to kill them at one point. (They said even worse things.) Now they are fine—they still have their babies/children, they have not hurt them.

People go through hard times connected with change, and no bigger change exists than taking a new person into your home (besides death).

We had therapists, but realized they were negative, focused on us failing (blaming the child)—then we were lucky enough to be given a recommendation for a therapist who has fostered, adopted, had a birth child, and had a stepchild. He is positive and wonderful.

He is helping my husband find the love he once felt (and accept that the love is there, if buried) and come out of his depression without medication.

I was unable to help because I was offended by what my husband said and felt for our son. I was so angry with him that it made it worse—he blamed my anger on the boy. Anyway, you have lots of comments, but I’d be glad to discuss this with you further since I feel our situations are similar in some ways.

Posted by K. Kirk on Jul 14, 2012 at 1:14am

My daughter was adopted and then “returned.” After a few years in foster care we adopted her. She was more damaged by the family that “returned” her than by her birth family who neglected her. Please do everything you can to support this child and give her a forever family. Adoption is about giving a child a family, not giving a family a child.

Posted by Mo22 on Jul 14, 2012 at 2:06am
Posted by 5ofus on Jul 17, 2012 at 12:09am

Yes. We’re experiencing it right now. Home 3 months with our toddler from China.  From what I understand, it’s very very common to go through a difficult transition.  Our daughter is exceptional and we are very well attached and we are so blessed to have her and therefore everything should be just perfect. But it’s not. Adding a 3 child, a toddler, to our household has been extremely challenging, and frankly, it’s a day by day effort to cope.

The best advice I would offer is to remember that this is common, and that it’s important to be gentle with one another. My spouse and I committed to our daughter when we received the referral. Disrupting the adoption would never have been (and still never will be) a consideration. And as it turns out, the challenges have been far less than they could have been. And yet, there are days when we feel pushed to our outer limits. I have found that the best thing I can do for my spouse is to allow him to freely express his darkest thoughts without judgement. The fact is, on the other side of this, we will still be a family of 5, but will we have trust between us as a couple? Will all 3 of our children feel loved and supported?  Or will we have deep resentments about how we treated one another through a difficult transition. That’s what I’m focused on now - coping with the day to day challenges in healthy ways that preserve the relationships and feelings of all of our family members, and trying not to be hard on ourselves about the fact that it is a struggle.

I guess I would label your spouse’s reaction a “grief” or “trauma” reaction.  And depending on how serious this comment was, it may actually be normal.  Your spouse’s specific reaction may be on the further end of the continuum, but we’re all somewhere on that continuum. Who among us has NOT said something to ourselves that we would be ashamed to admit out loud?  In your case, the spouse has said it out loud, and possibly put a little weight and threat behind it too. If we were talking about this in person, I would ask you, “how common is it for your spouse to take such an extreme view?” Because for me, that would say a lot about how s/he typically responds to stressful situations, and that might provide a clue about whether you can feel positive or hopeful about your spouse eventually coming around.  I understand the Mama Bear reaction to tell your spouse to hit the road if s/he can’t take it, because OBVIOUSLY the child is not leaving (and probably like most of the respondents, I’m grateful to hear your commitment to this child).  But it strikes me that there is also a traumatized parent in the mix - a parent who chose this child, who entered the situation seemingly with both eyes open, and who may be worth saving. I think it’s in this child’s best interest to have both parents IF underneath the shock and grief is an otherwise strong and good parent who just needs help coming through this this challenging transition. For us, it was helpful to meet twice with our social worker.  Books have helped a little. But time and being gentle with each other have been our 2 most effective tools.  I wish you luck and a good outcome as you find what will work for you to get through this.

Posted by 5ofus on Jul 17, 2012 at 12:12am

If your partner won’t consent to counseling, you might want to have a little chat with the partner’s doctor.  Let him/her know what is going on, and indicate that you think the cause may be post-adoption depression, which is actually about as common as post-partum depression.  See if there is something he/she can do to help your partner, preferably without indicating that you talked to him/her.  As an example, if your partner has any medical tests coming up, or is due for a physical, the doctor may want to take some time to discuss the adoption and the family’s adjustment.  This can open the door to discussions of counseling, anti-depressant medication, etc.


Posted by sak9645 on Sep 26, 2015 at 3:37pm

By the way, it is perfectly normal, and extremely common, for a child to bond with one parent first, and the other parent much later.  Bonding and attachment are hard work, even for adults; when you are dealing with a young child, he/she probably can’t fall in love with two parents at the same time.

Also, it can be that a child has had limited contact with adults of one gender, usually male.  In many cases, especially with international adoption, this is because orphanages tend to be staffed by women.  The child, especially a girl, may be terrified of her new Daddy, especially since the new Dad may be taller, heavier, and different in appearance from the few men she may have seen.  It may take quite a while until she is willing to make eye contact with him, be held by him, or be alone with him. 

On the other hand, parents of boys sometimes report that they hang on to their new Dad, even if they have seen very few adult men before, because they have yearned for a parent who is “like them”, and it may take a while until they bond with Mommy.  There was a two year old boy in my China travel group, who reacted like that; he really didn’t want a whole lot of attention from Mom, who wanted so very much to lavish love and attention on him; he wanted Daddy to carry him, Daddy to take him to the bathroom (he was reliably toilet trained), and so on.  Luckily, he bonded with Mommy soon afterwards, and although he tended to be more of a Daddy’s boy, he did become loving and responsive to his Mommy.

Problems often occur when a child bonds with one parent first, and not the other.  And the problems aren’t with the child, who is doing something that is perfectly normal.  The problems are with the parent who is temporarily rejected.  Unfortunately, few agencies tell parents, as part of pre-adoption training, that the child’s behavior is perfectly normal, and that the adults simply have to act, well, like adults about it and do things to “court” the child and gradually get him/her to bond with the second parent.  Unless a child has some underlying issues, like a history of being beaten or molested by an adult of the same gender as the new parent, or unless he/she has some more generalized attachment issues, he/she is virtually always going to bond with both parents—if the parents handle the situation well..

It is all too common, when a child rejects one parent, initially, for that parent to take it personally.  That parent may feel jealous, because the spouse is getting all the attention.  He/she may feel angry, because he/she had hoped for a child who was thrilled to have him/her as a parent.  And he/she may, petulantly, withdraw from the child, because he/she feels that, “If the child doesn’t like me, than I won’t pay attention to him/her.” 

Jealousy, anger, and withdrawal, when it comes to a parent’s reaction to a newly adopted child, are immature behaviors, and totally unhelpful when a new child is adjusting to being in a family.  The child isn’t trying to hurt the parent; he/she can’t help bonding first with one parent, and later with the other.  But if the temporarily rejected spouse displays these behaviors, the child will begin to feel as if that parent doesn’t want him/her, and that reaction can actually slow his/her bonding process. A vicious cycle will get started.  The child’s rejection will cause the adult to withdraw; the adult’s reaction will cause the child to withdraw, and so on until there’s no chance, without counseling, for the situation to improve.

While it may not be the greatest way to express it, some parents have adopted the mantra, “Fake it till you make it,” which means that even if you don’t fall in love with your new child immediately, and your child doesn’t immediately view you as the light of his/her life, do everything possible to promote bonding by both.  Learn about and use strategies to promote bonding and attachment.  Continue to act as if you adore your child.  Court your child, and make him/her want to be with you.  It won’t happen immediately, but one day the child may actually wind up adoring the second parent, and the parent may wake up to realize that he/she is totally in love with the child.

Games involving both parents are often a great way to promote bonding by both parents.  As an example, play a three way game of catch—rolling a large, soft ball like a beach ball on the floor for a very young child, and gently tossing a ball for an older child.  First roll or toss the ball to your spouse; then have him/her roll or toss the ball to the child; encourage the child to roll or toss the ball to you or your spouse.  Keep it up, with lots of giggles and encouragement, until the child wants to stop.

Making the rejected parent “in charge” of certain activities also can help.  The activities can be anything pleasant.  As an example, perhaps Daddy is the one who always serves dessert, and is great about making sure that ice cream always has sprinkles, cookies have a dab of whipped cream on top, applesauce has an added spritz of cinnamon,  etc.  If the child wants Mommy to do it, she can say, “That’s Daddy’s job.” 

At bedtime, it’s great to have both parents sit with the child for a bedtime story, even if the child sits on Mom’s lap, instead of being between Mommy and Daddy, for a while.  Maybe Daddy can read a page, and then Mommy can read a page, or maybe they can both comment on the funny pictures.  If prayer is part of the bedtime routine, have both parents involved, and then have both parents give a goodnight hug and kiss.

Although most older children will want to be bathed only by the parent of the same gender, or to bathe themselves, very young children can have bath help with both parents involved.  And once in a while, the preferred parent can dream up an errand outside the house, so that the rejected parent can do the bath on his/her own.

If one parent works outside the home, the bonding with that parent may be more difficult.  So that parent should make lots of efforts to spend time with the child, without the spouse present.  Perhaps Daddy is the one who takes the child to the hardware store and to do other errands on Saturday, while Mom gets a much needed haircut.  Perhaps, instead of dessert at home, Mom takes the child to Dairy Queen, while Dad does the dinner dishes.  There will be complaints for a while, when the child demands that “Mommy do it” or “Daddy help me”, but over time, the child is likely to stop these complaints—and decide that the other parent is pretty cool.

Now, if the child refuses to accept one parent after many months—maybe even a year—it may be time for an assessment by a counselor.  Given that adoptive families don’t always get the full story of why a child is in care, or what happened to the child in an orphanage or foster home, it may be necessary for the counselor, or a close friend who speaks the child’s language, to do some probing.  If a child’s foster Dad always beat him/her, no wonder he/she is taking a long time to trust the new Dad, for example.  And if the child isn’t bonding well to EITHER parent, despite excellent efforts by the parents to promote attachment, a specialist in attachment disorders can help find new strategies that work.

If a PARENT seems to have “given up” on bonding with a child, that could mean that he/she is experiencing post-adoption depression.  While adoptive parents don’t have quite the same peaks and valleys of hormones as a pregnant woman, they CAN develop a disorder that is very similar to post-partum depression, and just as serious. 

Think about it.  Perhaps there was extended grief over infertility.  Then there was elation when the family finally decided to move on to adoption.  Then the wait for a referral was anxiety-producing and upsetting.  Once a referral came, the parent was elated again.  But when he/she met the child, he/she was underweight, sickly looking (green slime coming out of the nose, a bad cough, and scabies tracks), and emotionally shut down from grief and shock; this shocked the parent and made him/her scared that he/she had made a terrible mistake.  And so on.  These mood swings are real, and can actually be very much like the effects of pregnancy hormones.  They CAN affect bonding and can lead to post-adoption depression.  The also can, if untreated, lead to a parent doing unsafe things, like harming himself/herself or the child.

So if your spouse is still finding it hard to bond with a new child, after a few months, and especially if he/she is also behaving in new ways, like crying a lot, getting angry a lot, not wanting to go anywhere, having trouble with sleep or sleeping too much, losing or gaining a lot of weight, without trying to lose or gain weight, pulling away from you, and generally being joyless, GET HELP for him/her.  Post-adoption depression is very treatable with medication and talk therapy, especially if you can find a doctor/psychiatrist/therapist who thoroughly understands the reality of the condition.  It probably won’t go away if untreated, and may actually get worse.  And telling your partner to “put on your big girl/boy panties and get over it”, or “you shouldn’t be that way” won’t help either.  Clinical depression of any sort, including post-partum and post-adoption depression, is a medical problem that requires professional treatment.


Posted by sak9645 on Oct 07, 2015 at 9:45pm

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