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How to Learn About Your New Children
Just Give It Time
Adding new children to the family often involves a myriad of changes and issues to be handled, but parents, especially dads, often tend to neglect the most important aspect – spending time getting to know your new child.
When newborns are added to the family, the father often feels left out of the process because of how dependent the baby is on the mother. If the baby is being breastfed, they will spend a significant amount of time attached to their moms, and dads may not feel like they bond as quickly with their child. It is important to be intentional during this time; take over what care you can, including changing diapers, giving baths and soothing them when they’re upset. You may not be able to breastfeed, but do not feel distant from your child because you feel like you cannot do other things. Newborns can be frustrating because they can’t tell you exactly why they are upset, but they quickly develop their little personalities and the more time you spend with them the more you will be able to discern their wants and needs.
When adding preschool and elementary aged children to your home, whether through marriage or adoption, the easiest way to get to know them is through spending time with them doing things they enjoy doing. If they like to color, color with them. If they like to kick a soccer ball, go outside and kick a soccer ball with them. Be intentional about meeting them on their level and do not get discouraged if it takes longer than you think it should. They may not respond to your efforts immediately, but the more comfortable they become around you and the more they sense that it is important to you to get to know them, the more they will open up. Try to spend one-on-one time with your child as well as time in big groups and doing activities with other people. When you and your spouse feel it is appropriate, you may wan to take a day or weekend trip away, just the two of you – go camping, to an amusement park or to see your child’s favorite sports team play.
Older children are perhaps the most difficult to get to know. Whatever the circumstances surrounding them joining your family are, there is probably some hurt and bitterness involved. As much as possible, take your cues from your child. Be ready and open to spend time with them, but sense when they want to be alone and do your best to respect their space. Use opportune times, such as when you’re riding in the car together or when you’re eating dinner, to have conversations with them about their day, their school and their friends. It will take some time and effort on your part to build trust with your new child, and it can often be a frustrating, even hurtful. Remember that you are the adult – however your child responds to you, they are probably not responding to you as an individual, but rather your role in the situation they are in. It should be established that disrespect is not allowed, but your child will feel more comfortable being honest with you when they know you will listen and will acknowledge their feelings. The more you listen, the more you will get to know your child.