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Deep breath. I haven't bonded with my adopted children.

(28 Posts)
Chaz098 Mon 14-Dec-15 18:45:32

So, the facts.

2 DC. Placed middle of last year at 6 yo and 4 yo.

They are good kids. Some issues but we - so far - have been lucky. I know this even though times have been hard.

But I just haven't bonded with them. I shy away from physical contact, especially when I'm tired. They (I can't believe I'm saying this) irritate me a lot. I don't particularly enjoy spending time in their company (although I tolerate it well now which is more than can be said for the beginning of this year).

I honestly feel like I'm playing the role of being their mother, rather than I am their mother. I dwell on how different it would have been with birth children, although I know there's no guarantee I'd have bonded with them.

I have asked for support. Their LA was useless. accessed it another way. This has helped make me feel more skilled as a parent, but I still don't feel bonded.

I feel more bonded than I did 12 months ago, but at this rate, I feel like they'll be 18 and I'll be just getting to like them!

Everyone has said they're attaching well (professionals) so I kid myself that this is all ok, but I know it probably isn't so I want to address it.

Anyone go through the same? What did you do? What baby steps can I start to take to make this better?

Chaz098 Mon 14-Dec-15 18:46:09

P.S. Name changed for this but am a regular.

mydutifullaunderette Mon 14-Dec-15 21:02:54

I don't know that I have any flashes of insight but I couldn't leave this unanswered. It takes guts to face these deeply uncomfortable feelings, and I can only imagine the pressure you feel under in reality.

Firstly, is it possible you might need some support from your GP? Just because the early months years of placement are bloody hard, it doesn't mean there aren't also very real physical and emotional effects. If you think post-adoption depression might be making your situation even harder, do please ask for help.

Your post sounds exhausted, and burned out. Could you have been trying so hard to achieve that ideal bond and mythical "stability" that it's left you feeling emptied out? In my limited experience, the bond is something that creeps up, eventually, when I'm looking the other way. I suspect it started to happen when I started to remember to take care of myself, take a little time for myself (single adopter, so I know it's hard to carve out those precious minutes!) and clear my head. I was also lucky in that I had two different people I could offload to, who were experienced in attachment and adoption. Those regular sessions talking it through felt like a pointless exercise at the beginning, but gave me headspace and permission to say anything I felt, and really did help. One of the people I found through a post-adoption buddy scheme locally, and one was a family friend.

Can you do something for yourself, no matter how small, to stop absolutely everything being about the DC? Because otherwise it is bound to feel claustrophobic and draining flowers

Just to briefly respond to the DC's ability to "irritate" grin have you read Amber Elliott's "Why can't my child behave?" It's great at explaining how our DC will naturally keep using the same hard-wired behaviour that helped them survive, when they join their adoptive family. That behaviour is designed to get and keep your attention, even if negative. It does ease off, as the trust starts to build, but in the meantime I found it helped me a lot because I understood the "why" behind the constant need for closeness.

If you want to offload more via PM, I'm happy to listen smile

UnderTheNameOfSanders Mon 14-Dec-15 21:40:19

It took me much longer to bond with my elder one (8 when placed) than younger one (2 when placed).

I found hugs to/from her hard and she was more irritating than her sibling. Even now 8 years in I am not naturally so physical with her as with her sister.

Are they legally adopted yet?

How would you feel if they were ill or SS said they were leaving? I found illness times were ones when I could feel closest emotionally. When AD1 was 13 she had a minor op under general anaesthetic and I kind of surprised myself at how I felt about it all.

Sorry, nothing more helpful to add. Don't be too hard on yourself.
Carry on faking it.

Best wishes

thefamilyvonstrop Mon 14-Dec-15 22:51:57

Hi Chaz, can I ask what you would describe as "bonded" versus where you are currently? I guess I'm asking what your perception of the bond is/how you think it should feel?
The two things you mention - irritation and not wanting physical contact when tired - are absolutely normal I think (in our house anyway). Certainly, children can be very irritating and I definitely have to bite back irritation - often when I'm feeling a bit tired and often not related to anything in particular my LO is doing. Would moving away from physical contact be something you experience in your wider relationships too (e.g., do you feel irritated by your partner being physically affectionate in the same circumstances?).
I would also agree with a pp about post adoption depression. I think placement can really knock your confidence and the change can alter so many dynamics in life - and 18 months is still very much early days.

Italiangreyhound Tue 15-Dec-15 00:41:40

Chaz it must have taken a lot of courage to come on here for advice about something so personal. I do hope you are taking care of yourself, eating and sleeping well etc.

Are you having fun together with kids? Without kids?

I found swimming good with ds in the early days (good for skin to skin contact) and lots of fun.

We have a game called Nurturing Game This was very helpful to get ds talking about things and he loved playing it in the early days.

Good luck, please do see the GP, post adoption depression is a possibility.

Lots of excellent advice from other posters too.

All the best chaz.

Kr1stina Tue 15-Dec-15 00:47:18

Sorry for the brief reply, but here are my thoughts - do any of these seem possible ?

You might have post adoption depression

You might have another physical illness, such as thyroid disease , which is making you depressed

Your kids might have attachment issues ( despite what you are being told ) and your feelings are a symptom of their problems

You are burnt out from a year of such hard work

You are misinterpreting normal signs of being a mum to demanding kids ( so you think you should always feel loving towards them

You are an introvert and so find it very hard to cope with all the noise , constant demand , touching and the lack of space and quiet

Italiangreyhound Tue 15-Dec-15 01:01:00

Very good points Kr1stina.

One other thought, a few years ago, before we adopted, I got very run down, people actually commented on it when they saw me and I ended up in tears at the doctors one day. It turned out I was very anaemic, I think I was close to the point of almost needing a blood transfusion or so my friend said when I told her results!

I had no idea. The doctor put me on some iron, and then on some laxatives and a short while later I was fine. What was so scary was I had no idea how anaemic I was, and it made me feel just so bone weary that it did affect how I saw life too.

Hope it is not this for you but hope you find something to get you through this OK.

Kazza299 Tue 15-Dec-15 06:24:57

I could have written your post, although my difference is that I am bonded to ds2 -5 and not ds1 -8. Placed a year ago. So I know how the bond should feel and feel the guilt that I find being with and physical contact so hard with the older one.
I agree that there could be some depression but I went to gp in tears afew months ago and have some pills. Feel sooooo much better but the bond has not got better.
I have seen a councillor but not any experience in adoption and didn't find it helped. Finally saw a chams SW this week. Was great in terms of under standing that ds1 purposefully pushes me away and I respond but that just adds to the guilt.
People have told me to watch him sleep. Well I just thank my stars he is asleep!!
Trying to think of something that has helped....
Got a gorgeous school photo where he looks so cute and happy. Did want to give a hug a couple of times when I looked at that?

Kewcumber Tue 15-Dec-15 10:34:49

I dearly love my DS who has been with me since he was 1 (now 10) and it irritates the shit out of me that he is still so clingy which makes me feel guilty because I know what it's caused by.

I'm not trying to minimise what you're feeling just trying to point out what others have said which is that some of what you're feeling is normal for any parent of small children.

I know how long it took me to bond with DS and he was tiny and cute - I could quite see why it would take a lot longer to bond with older children.

I agree with Kristina's list of questions to ask yourself, I'd also ask what you do for yourself. One of the things which really helped me was getting my mum to babysit one night a week and going out to an aqua class at the gym.

I would identify one thing in particular that you think is a problem and try to address that. Which thing bothers you most at the moment - I don't mean a generic "I don;t feel bonded" but what one practical thing bothers you most?

gabsdot Tue 15-Dec-15 11:02:29

I can relate to this. I have 2 adopted children. I bonded with my first moments after meeting him. It was like a thunderbolt, I loved him and that was it. He was a small baby.
My second child was 2 and the bond took much longer, probably at least 2 years. I also suffered from depression after her adoption for about a year.
Even now, I find my DD hard work and she can be very annoying.
So I totally understand how you feel. I felt like I was playing at being her mum for a long time and like a fraud. I would say how much I loved her and how wonderful she was but I didn't feel it.
I think my advice would be fake it till you make it. It's tough but you are not alone and are not a bad parent or anything else.
Also sometimes people don't bond with birth children very well. My sister took months to bond with one of her babies.

tldr Tue 15-Dec-15 11:36:49

Just chipping in too;
I find I think most fondly of mine when they're asleep and I'm looking at photos of them. All the cute, none of the irritating.

And I'm a massive fan of the idea that you need time/space alone. Find a way of giving yourself regular time to do something for you.

I don't know how you spend your days (obviously) but we've found very quiet at home days work far better for us than out and about days. Doing a big colouring project was brilliant for me and DD. A nice easy together project that didn't require us to talk but that allowed us to if we wanted.

And I'm sure I was better able to bond with mine because I was able to have one to one time with each rather than us always being in a group of three or four. Is it feasible that you could try that?

Hang in there. flowers

Chaz098 Wed 16-Dec-15 20:19:35

Thank you, thank you thank you for the replies and PMs.

I will reply in depth to everyone when I can get to a laptop (rather than my iPhone) but in the meantime I really appreciate all your responses.
I have been thinking about them a lot over the last day or two and they've really given me food for thought.

flowers

Chaz098 Mon 21-Dec-15 13:15:02

Right, finally got to a laptop.

Post adoption depression

The thought occurred to me, but I'm almost sure that isn't the case. I've had depression before and although I know it isn't always the same, I have no other symptoms. It's something I'll keep an eye on though.

Your post sounds exhausted, and burned out. Could you have been trying so hard to achieve that ideal bond and mythical "stability" that it's left you feeling emptied out?

I am knackered, that's true. We have been thorough a lot of change in the last year - other than the children being placed - and life never seems to sit still for so much as a moment. Added into that, the DC both have trouble sleeping. Something we expected the odd night of at 6 and 5 years old (now 8 and 6) but not 3-4 nights a week.

I know I shouldn't worry about it but I never seem to have time to do things like get the house properly clean and where I was previously organised I now forget things like taking raffle prizes into school. I know I should forget it and prioritise spending time with the kids, but I just struggle to do that. You write about bonding occurring when you 'cleared your head' - to me, getting organised so I'm not stressing about the small stuff is part of that if that makes sense.

Yes - I also think over-analysing the 'lack of bonding' has led to me feeling mentally worn but not too sure how to stop doing that either!

Can you do something for yourself, no matter how small, to stop absolutely everything being about the DC?

Other than the odd night out I haven't done this enough. I will think of something in the New Year and schedule it in.

Amber Elliott's "Why can't my child behave?"

Thank you for the suggestion - I'll look it up

Are they legally adopted yet?

Yes

How would you feel if they were ill or SS said they were leaving?

They're hardly little souls bless them and we haven't had much illness, but if SS said they were leaving? I think I'd be bereft. But shouldn't I know that for sure?

can I ask what you would describe as "bonded" versus where you are currently? I guess I'm asking what your perception of the bond is/how you think it should feel?

Good question! I guess I feel like I should like my kids more! I see parents teaching their children things for example like counting and it seems to come so naturally to them, like they're really getting something out of engaging with their kids. I have to make a really conscious effort to spend time with them (I don't think this is helped by the fact that they're popular and have lots of friends on the street so are out and about/with friends a lot) But I feel if I don't spend time with them now, what is our relationship going to be like in future? Everything just feels like a bit of a struggle and I just don't seem to get any 'joyous' moments where my heart is swelling and I'm genuinely proud of them. I know that sounds awful and I truly believe the fault in that last statement is mine and not theirs - like my empathy has been switched off? I guess I feel if I were more bonded the crap bits to good bits ratio would be better - and the catch 22 situation is I feel like if I were more bonded to them, I'd be less irritated by them and I'd therefore be having more fun with them so the crap bit to good bit ratio would be better!

Would moving away from physical contact be something you experience in your wider relationships too (e.g., do you feel irritated by your partner being physically affectionate in the same circumstances?)

That's a difficult one. DH is not physically affectionate at all (he is very affectionate in other ways though so - until you'd asked that question - I'd never really noticed it). But yes - constant pawing from a partner would have the same affect on me in those circumstances. Interesting.

Are you having fun together with kids? Without kids?

Fun together with kids? Not really. For a number of reasons. They are typical fun suckers. It is really hard to do any activity with them without it turning into a nightmare to be honest. I know my expectations of them are too high sometimes. I don't know what activities to do with them where we can enjoy ourselves together (rather than me take them somewhere for them to go off by themselves)

Fun without kids?

Again not much - DM is great and will babysit but DH has had a torrid time lately so I can't say I've had too much fun with him either lately. However, one positive is that his dramas have recently come to an end so hopefully after recharging for a while, we'll get back to where we were. We used to have great fun!

You might have another physical illness, such as thyroid disease , which is making you depressed

Hmm. I will look into this. Thanks.

Your kids might have attachment issues ( despite what you are being told ) and your feelings are a symptom of their problems

Is there anywhere that I can go to see a long list of clues that show that someone is attached? All I keep seeing is 'come to you when ill, take comfort from you when upset' - well yes and yes. But I do sometimes wonder if they are really attached

You are burnt out from a year of such hard work

You are misinterpreting normal signs of being a mum to demanding kids ( so you think you should always feel loving towards them

You are an introvert and so find it very hard to cope with all the noise , constant demand , touching and the lack of space and quiet

Yes yes and yes to those!!!!

People have told me to watch him sleep. Well I just thank my stars he is asleep!!

Oh god a thousand times this. I also just wonder what time at night they're going to wake me up and what excuse they're going to use!

I'm not trying to minimise what you're feeling just trying to point out what others have said which is that some of what you're feeling is normal for any parent of small children.

That's not minimising. It's really helpful.

I would identify one thing in particular that you think is a problem and try to address that. Which thing bothers you most at the moment - I don't mean a generic "I don;t feel bonded" but what one practical thing bothers you most?

I feel like, when they're busy like playing or watching TV I should go and make more of an effort to engage with them - and, more than that, I should WANT to go and engage with them. Instead, when they are playing by themselves or watching TV, I'm sat in the kitchen with a glass of wine cuppa thanking my lucky stars that I have some peace. Which would be fine but sometimes they do this for most of the day and before I know it I've spent the day in a different room from them and it's their bedtime. And then the guilt starts and I promise to do better next day.

I think my advice would be fake it till you make it. It's tough but you are not alone and are not a bad parent or anything else.

Also sometimes people don't bond with birth children very well. My sister took months to bond with one of her babies.

Thank you - that helps.

I think most fondly of mine when they're asleep and I'm looking at photos of them. All the cute, none of the irritating

I am going to get some nice photos of them and pop them up on the walls. Couple of you have said that now and it seems a practical thing to do. We have some up but they're early days ones and we have much more meaningful ones to put up now.

And I'm sure I was better able to bond with mine because I was able to have one to one time with each rather than us always being in a group of three or four. Is it feasible that you could try that?

We get very little one on one time. Normally it's those two with just me. I will speak to DH and see what we can do.

Thank you again for all your replies. They really have helped.

Chaz098 Mon 21-Dec-15 13:16:10

P.S. - it take some guts to post so thank you for the support/non flaming.

iPaid Mon 21-Dec-15 19:15:38

Which would be fine but sometimes they do this for most of the day and before I know it I've spent the day in a different room from them and it's their bedtime. And then the guilt starts and I promise to do better next day

Oh God, I know what you mean. I'm an introvert and need hours and hours some time to myself. (adopted) DD seems perfectly happy playing with Lego, watching TV, going on the iPad but I feel guilty and think we should be baking hmm or discussing trees or something worthy!

dibly Mon 21-Dec-15 23:29:43

Have you tried anything like the safe base course? We were really struggling with a little one with attachment problems, and I feel almost evangelical about that course. Helped teach theraplay techniques, which was the turning point for our family, especially after months of (most) professionals, well SWs, telling us LO had attached well. Superficially yes she had, but it just felt hollow.

You sound shattered though, and it's exhausting. I took ADs from 6months in, and had counselling, but none of that got to the root of the problem and gave us any practical guidance of how to build the attachment.

Wileycoyote Mon 21-Dec-15 23:39:48

Kids can be annoying and I have felt very much like you describe with my biological children. I have even gelt irritated by them hugging me which made me feel so ashamed. It's fine now though.
If
I am feeling under pressure I find other people's neediness makes me feel a bit hostile towards them. Now I know that I just stay with it and don't act on it, and it passes. Be kind to them and yourself and relax!!

Wileycoyote Mon 21-Dec-15 23:42:22

I should have said - my youngest has ASD and at times I felt I had no positive feelings towards him. It has come right now but I did consider giving up. The only thing that stopped me at the time was fear of being judged.

MrsH1989 Tue 22-Dec-15 16:10:38

I feel like, when they're busy like playing or watching TV I should go and make more of an effort to engage with them - and, more than that, I should WANT to go and engage with them. Instead, when they are playing by themselves or watching TV, I'm sat in the kitchen with a glass of wine cuppa thanking my lucky stars that I have some peace. Which would be fine but sometimes they do this for most of the day and before I know it I've spent the day in a different room from them and it's their bedtime. And then the guilt starts and I promise to do better next day.

I feel like this more than I care to admit and my son is biologically mine.

FATEdestiny Tue 22-Dec-15 16:41:14

sometimes they do this for most of the day and before I know it I've spent the day in a different room from them and it's their bedtime

If you have a 6 year old and an 8 year old who can be out of your presence and don't bicker, argue or fight - you are a better parent than me! I have to stay in the room just to referee their sibling rivalry.

Q: what one practical thing bothers you most? A: when they're busy like playing or watching TV I should go and make more of an effort to engage with them

Baby steps. Start off with making a deal with yourself that you'll stay in the same room. No pressure to engage just make a point of enjoying the peace and quiet with a cup of tea in the same room they are.

I am currently sat on my laptop in same room as my children, not overly engaging. But I am here in the same room as them. I am occasionally congratulating one DS on a good goal on his FIFA game, then occasionally passing comment on the brilliant minecraft house the oldest is building. But mostly they are both playing (one on the tablet one on the xbox) and I am loving the quiet calm, with a blanket over my legs and my feet up, not moving from the sofa (whilst on MN on the laptop).

Ah the joys of (lazy) parenting!

thefamilyvonstrop Wed 23-Dec-15 00:36:26

You are an introvert and so find it very hard to cope with all the noise , constant demand , touching and the lack of space and quiet

Yes yes and yes to those!!!!

This is really something to bear in mind. As soon as Kristina posted the question it immediately had resonance for me and the fact you identify strongly could be important for you. I'm a classic Myers Briggs introvert although in job roles have always had to present as a typical extrovert. It's flipping exhausting! I am always mindful of it now - typically signs for me are feeling drained and a buzzing / ringing in my ears. I experience the same with my toddler when he is with me all day - if I don't get "internal" time I feel very stressed. You also said you might feel like "moving away" from physical contact in other relationships when stressed. Again, that's quite normal with introverts.
Regardless of other factors, I would recommend you have regular and frequent times when you can legitimately withdraw from the children and just do whatever works for you (reading, gym, cinema etc). I know that's massively easier said than done but I really think you need that time just to feel unbalanced internally.

combined02 Wed 23-Dec-15 12:28:45

​Re iPaid's comment, if the children have come from care, they might be used to spending time alone, hence seeming happy.

When I read your latest update, OP, I both chuckled and felt sad together - chuckled because I think really almost every single parent feels the same way at times (quite a lot of the time - it is hard work​!​​), but ​sad at the idea of the children being on their own for hours and hours, as a regular thing​​​​.

I​n relation to all​ the activities - baking, discussing trees (uber worthy!), learning music, learning maths​, going out and about ​and so on, sometimes I love it and sometimes it is hard work. I adore my dc and there are no attachment issues​​, but the relationship aspect is the same as any other - I think that the more you give the more you get. Given how you describe your kids (as being outgoing, etc) I think that the more time you put in now, the easier it will get, the less they will fun-suck over time, the more you will get to know each other, the more you will all adapt to each other, the more you will have in common over time.

I found the below link and ​it indicates that it is not surprising you have not yet bonded because it takes time, and there is a lot of advice down in the comments section - about how to get the attachment biological chemicals going - not sure if you have already seen it or not or if it would be useful:

creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/feel-beast-love-adopted-child/

AllTheToastIsGone Wed 23-Dec-15 20:55:00

I'm not an adopter. However I have 3 dc and have some experience of adoptions via friends etc so perhaps the below may be helpful.

It seems to me that whilst adoption is a wonderful thing it does put both children and parents under a lot of pressure to make their emotional relationship reflect the new legal reality.

However emotions just aren't at our command in that way. Relationships and emotional bonds take time to develop.

I wonder if your children's closest emotional relationship is with one another at the moment? The fact that they play together so well seems to suggest it might be and nothing would be more natural if their lives have been disrupted but they have always stayed together.

Some practical advice would be.

Do some things / activities with the kids as individuals to build closeness to each child.

Reading. I have found nightly bedtime reading massively thereputic with my kids. As well being good for their education sharing stories with them seems to calm them down and bring us closer and it's a time of day when they often bring up things that are worrying them.

Look for common ground. Things that interest you both and that you can do together. Or even just things that you feel passionate about and can teach them.

Think about their good points and focus on those.

And good luck with everything.

iPaid Fri 25-Dec-15 01:32:47

​Re iPaid's comment, if the children have come from care, they might be used to spending time alone, hence seeming happy

I will rephrase my light-hearted comment; my DD is happy - whether she's spending time occupying herself, hanging out with us or her friends.

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