10 Intervention Tips for Bonding & Attaching with Foster and Adopted Children by Jeanette Yoffe MFT
Updated: Jan 30
1. Read books that focus on the child-parent relationship. • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw • I Love You So Much by Marianne Richmond • Hug by Jez Alborough • I Like It When...by Mary Murphy • Why I Need You by Gregory Lang and Janet Lankford-Moran • I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas and Priscilla Burris
2. Utilize physical affection as much as possible. This will restructure the brain and create positive endorphins to the body. Be very playful to lessen the fear of closeness and experience vulnerability.
• Soft touches on arm pats on the back. • 20-second hugs daily, inspired by Bryan Post, begin the brain’s process of releasing the oxytocin hormone, which is necessary for bonding. • Steal kisses, steal tickles, and rock together. • Suggest a massage daily, or washing/moisturizing child’s hands/feet. • Fall into each other. Play “cowboys and Indians,” as you are attacking each other fall onto the child gracefully as opposed to falling away. • Give a backrub with your back to each other. Sitting back to back, movement is “animal-like” rubbing into each other to feel each other and hear each other. Play with what the child gives you and give it back in return.
3. Create “Experience Books” of child and parent doing positive and fun activities together. I.e. Our trip to Florida, Disneyland, Lego land with mommy, Sea World with Daddy. Read and share positive memories of the event together.
4. Adopt a stuffed animal that becomes a part of the family and is treated with nurturance, has an adoption or foster care certificate which contracts the commitment that you are making to this new member of the family. Spray aromatherapy on the stuffed animal to facilitate the bonding process.
5. Have children’s music playing to foster closeness with singing between you and your child. I.e. bands such as Elizabeth Mitchell, Billy Zane, and Sugarland.
6. Utilize “I love you stamps” or heart stickers, which can be placed on a child’s body in a place where only the child and parent know where to create closeness.
7. Create a “Calm Box” (large refrigerator/Appliance box) or “Safe Place” (blanket over a table) with the child to acknowledge there is a “place of emotional safety” to go to when the world outside seems overwhelming. Include books/paper/dolls/nurturing items that can soothe the child.
8. Create “Family Wish Book” with Teens, where each family member can enter wishes/wants i.e. preferably not costly items and a family member can surprise that person with a wish at any time.
9. Have a free play with parent one on one with a child daily, a certain amount of time is allotted with no interruptions. The child chooses the activity. To create structure, have a list of games to choose from.
• Play board games, building with blocks, and puzzles. • Play doctor or nurse to each other. Have real band-aids available for pretend wounds and have an attitude of great empathy and sorrow for the wounds.
• Play “baby and mommy” together, allow the regression to occur, utilize soft blankets/pillows. I recommend dog blankets they are made of the softest material, pretend to feed with a bottle, have lots of holding the child like a baby, rocking, singing and coddling.
• Draw an “island” together on a large sheet of paper for only the parent and child to draw on and include all of their favorite things.
• Bake Cookies together and enjoy eating/feeding them to each other. • Do Face Painting together. Take turns painting each other’s faces. • Buy “String Licorice” and measure different parts of the child’s body and say, “This is how big your smile is” then feed licorice to the child. • Have a Staring Contest. Child and parent sit cross-legged touching knees. The adult puts his hands on the child’s shoulders; the child puts his hands on the parent’s arms. The adult says, “When I say Go we have to look in each other’s eyes. The last person to blink wins, and gets the prize, he can give the other guy a hug or a tickle.”
• Hide Easter Eggs Around the House with “I love you” messages and have the child find them. Save the messages in an “I love you” jar for the child to read over and over.
10. Create transitional objects for the child to hold when there is separation I.e. keychain with parents picture, a necklace with a locket, piece of clothing of parents that is recognizable, picture of parent and child together! Purchase an Aromatherapy Comfee doll HERE.