When adopting a child, it’s vital to remember that attachments do not necessarily happen overnight. In fact, they often do not. Forming the bonds of family takes work and patience.

That is nothing to fear. The same holds true for parents of biological children. In the case of adopted children, however, they may have some unique needs to be addressed. Keep the following in mind and you’ll find that the process need not be difficult, and in fact can be quite fulfilling.

Understand Attachment – “Attachment” is a term used by professionals to describe the process by which parents and children become close and learn mutual love, respect, and trust in one another. The most important aspect of this to understand is that attachment is a two-way street. It’s a process through which all parties grow to care for and trust in one another. As such, the process is one of reciprocal giving and trusting. Remember the give-and-take of this relationship and you’ll have an easier time adjusting to it.

Stay Close To Your Baby – If you have adopted an infant, one of the most important things you can do is to maintain a close physical presence to your baby. Children under a year old, and especially those six months old or less, maintain a close connection with their mother through touch, smell, and the other senses. Your familiar presence will be comforting. You’ll also be building a bond that will last for many years to come.

Skin-to-Skin Contact – Years of study have shown that close physical contact can be a vital component in forming attachments and bonds between a parent and an adopted child, especially if the child is very young. Hugs, hand-holding, and so on. Separation can be a traumatic experience for a child. Closeness can help alleviate that trauma.

Eye Contact – Eye contact is important from infanthood on through adolescence, and not just for your child. It’s good for you, too. Eye contact encourages closeness, helps establish trust, and encourage openness, all of which are essential ingredients to familial bonding. Don’t force it. You don’t need to be face to face. Even eye contact from across a room helps build important bonds.

Understand Stress and Trauma – Remember that adoption can be a traumatic experience for a child, a time of great change that can cause stress. That stress may serve to slow attachment and cause your child to be withdrawn. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty about this. This is normal. Instead, understand that your child is coping with a difficult experience. You can’t force attachment, but you can be caring and understanding.

Be Patient – Bonds and attachment do not always happen overnight. Many an adoptive parent has worried when they didn’t immediately fall in love with their child. But it’s important to remember that you’re not in a race. You have your whole lives to grow close – something that is just as true for biological families as it is for adoptive families. In other words, you’re not alone. Strengthening a family, any kind of family, takes work and patience.

Do Further Research – There are a wealth of resources available to adoptive parents that go into great detail on the bonding / attachment process, the science that drives it, the philosophies that guide it, and so on. We’ve gathered some of the very best in our online bookstore. We suggest you begin with The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis and then explore some of the other volumes we have available from there.