Bonding with Adopted Baby

Dear Mr. Dad: My spouse and I adopted a 14-month-old baby boy. What can I do as a working father to build and cement a strong bond, since we have missed the early stages?

A: The best thing you can do now is read everything you can about child development. You need to know what’s been going on so far, what’s reasonable to expect from a 14-month old, and what’s not. (My book, Fathering Your Toddler, is a good place to start.) Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to “make up for lost time.” You can’t. But you can—and should—focus on the future.

It’s also very important that you not set your expectations too high. It’s tempting to get the baby’s room all set up, and to imagine that you and your spouse will be able to start providing your child with a wonderful life (especially if he came from a less-than-wonderful environment). And, of course, it’s natural to imagine that you’ll fall immediately in love with the baby and that he’ll fall in love with you. It’s extremely unlikely that will happen. So give yourselves plenty of time to get used to each other and your new situation.

Don’t forget to pay special attention to your relationship with your wife. Having a new baby can take a real toll. You’re going to need plenty of time alone–individually and as a couple (away from the baby).

Finally, I’m sure you’re already in contact with adoption support groups. If not, though, there are some great resources for adoptive parents at Adoption Connection (adoptionconnection.org) and Adoption.org (adoption.org/)