Bringing an adopted child into your life is a journey. Your world will be filled with love, growth, and the joy of nurturing a beautiful bond. One of the most important parts will be building a strong relationship so your child feels heard and understood. And whether your child is an infant, toddler, or teenager, creating a home where they feel valued and listened to will be the foundation for trust and open communication for a long time to come.

Here are 12 practical tips to help you along your adoption pathway:

1. Open Up the Communication

Let’s kick off with the basics—communication! You’ll want to make an environment where conversations flow naturally. Start with small talks about their day or interests, gradually diving into deeper discussions as they grow more comfortable. We’re not just focusing on adoption-related issues here, but life in general.

Sometimes sharing your own feelings and experiences helps your child to express themselves too. For example, share stories about your day or feelings about certain situations. This helps them to respond. If they seem hesitant, offer some prompts like, “How was school today?” But maybe not right after school—kids tend to need a cooldown period just like adults after work.

Most of all, remember, it’s not just about talking but actively listening. Be fully present (put down the devcices), maintain eye contact, and show genuine interest in what they share.

2. Create a Safe Space

Home should be a haven. It should be a place where your child feels safe expressing their thoughts and feelings. Let them know that it’s okay to feel and that those feelings are one hundred percent valid. Let them know they can confide in you without fear of judgment. Adoption trauma can linger for a long time, affecting a child’s sense of safety and belonging. While you don’t need to go right to it, recognizing it as a possibility in your child’s life is important.

And sometimes a cozy blanket and a cup of hot cocoa can make those heart-to-heart talks feel safer and more special. Just saying!

3. Validate Their Emotions

When your child shares their feelings, support them! Even if their emotions may seem trivial to you, they’re important to them. Saying things like, “I understand why you feel that way” or “It’s okay to be upset about that” reassures them that they and their emotions matter.

Adoption can trigger complex emotions like abandonment, loss, or confusion. This isn’t your fault and it’s certainly not your child’s fault—but it is a reality. You can support these feelings by acknowledging their struggles. For example, if your child is feeling frustrated about their past, you could say, “It’s okay to feel sad about not knowing your birth family. I’m here to support you through those feelings.”

4. Listen More, Lecture Less

As parents, we all love sharing our wisdom, but sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, adoptees may struggle with identity issues or a sense of not belonging. Avoid (at all costs) the urge to jump into advice mode immediately. Instead, actively listen before offering your well-meaning guidance.

This helps your child feel heard and respected while fostering their independence and problem-solving skills.

5. Encourage Decision-Making

Empower your child by involving them in decision-making, when appropriate. Whether it’s choosing their bedtime story, what to have for dinner, or even picking out their clothes. Offering choices gives them a sense of autonomy and ownership.

6. Respect Their Privacy

Respecting boundaries is key in any relationship, especially with your adopted child. While open communication is important, respecting their privacy shows that you trust and respect them.

Little things like knocking before entering their room and honoring their personal space will go a long way.

7. Be Consistent

You’ve probably heard it before, but consistency creates a sense of stability. It’s true. Stick to your word whenever possible, whether it’s about discipline, promises, or routines. When your child knows what to expect from you, they feel secure and valued.

8. Do Things Together

Bonding over shared activities will help to strengthen your connection. Look for activities that both of you enjoy, whether it’s playing games, baking or cooking, going for hikes, or even watching movies together.

These shared moments work to create lasting memories and also provide opportunities for those deeper, meaningful conversations after you’ve adopted.

9. Learn Their “Love Language”

We’ve all got one. And children do, too. Each child communicates and feels loved differently. Some thrive on physical affection, while others like to hear you say things out loud or experiencing quality time together.

Understanding their love language helps you connect with them more effectively.

10. Look for Professional Support When Needed

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, different challenges require someone outside the family and friend circle: Professional guidance. Accepting help from a counselor or therapist who specializes in adoption can provide much-needed support for both you and your child.

11. Celebrate Your Child’s Individuality

Embrace and celebrate your child’s uniqueness. Whether they have specific cultural backgrounds, hobbies, or interests, show some enthusiasm and support for what makes them who they are.

Encouraging their individuality builds their confidence and self-worth.

12. Be Patient and Persistent

Building that trust and making sure your child feels heard will be an ongoing process. Be patient with yourself and your child. Rome wasn’t built in a day (as they say), and neither is a trusting relationship. But remembering these tips (even some of them) will help you to strengthen your bond.

Remember, every child is different, and what works for one might not work for another. It’s easy to compare, but when it comes to parent/child relationships, there is no comparison.

Tailor these tips to work best for your adopted child’s personality and their needs. And make sure to cherish the journey of parenthood and the connection you’re building with your adopted child. Their feeling of being heard and valued by you will turn into a lifelong, cherished relationship.