Attaching to Adopted School Age Kids

The focus of forming a secure attachment with older children is to spend time together by finding common interests and activities that encourage communication.

Simple Ideas to Help Kids Bond with Adoptive Parents

For kids aged four to ten, so much is going on in their lives at the time of adoption placement that it may be hard to find time to really relate on an individual level. Between reaching developmental milestones, adjusting to new people and situations, and processing their adoption, preschool and school-age kids will need extra help to make connections to their adoptive family.

Show Physical Affection

Important at any age, physical affection is a positive way to bond with an adopted child. Some older kids may reject outward affection from the adoptive parents, but there are other ways of initiating positive touch.

  • Read books while sitting close together
  • Give a manicure and pedicure to each other
  • Braid hair or cut hair
  • Give a massage
  • Whisper a secret message
  • Dance together
  • Play games like leapfrog and going under the bridge
  • Work on a picture or puzzle together
  • Go swimming together

Do Activities Together

Kids in this age group have as many interests as they do personality traits and it is the job of the adoptive parents to find activities their children enjoy. Look for activities that appeal to different people in the family to encourage attachments with everyone.

  • Help work on a scrapbook, photo album or lifebook
  • Decorate the child’s bedroom
  • Join an outside activity together like art class, karate, cooking class
  • Make a favorite meal together
  • Play board games and interactive video games
  • Go on a family vacation

Open Communication

Communication is essential for fostering attachment with kids who have been adopted at an older age. Helping them process their adoption and developing self-esteem are common issues that are discussed with this age group.

  • Talk about the birth family and foster family
  • Create a family tree
  • Praise often with specific feedback about skill, talent, or accomplishment
  • Discuss difficult issues openly in an age-appropriate manner
  • Encourage eye contact when possible, but sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder talks are less intrusive

Respond to Basic Needs

More than just providing food, shelter, and comfort, responding to basic needs involves getting to know what kids need to feel safe and secure all the time. Kids have may have unexpected needs and it is the role of the adoptive parent to keep on guard for any issues.

  • Create simple rituals for bedtime and mealtime
  • Maintain predictable daily schedules
  • Adjust the environment to suit the child’s needs, such as allowing her to carry a lunchbox around full of snacks
  • Provide outside help such as therapy and support groups when needed

Adopting an older child can be very challenging but by showing affection, spending time together, talking openly, and responding to basic needs, kids can form enduring, positive, and secure attachments with their families.


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