What To Do When You Don’t Feel Love For Your Child.

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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You made the decision to adopt and joyfully welcomed a child into your home. But now you find yourself struggling to feel the same love for them that you do for your biological children. You wonder, "Will I ever love them the same?"

Tears spilled over the bottom of Maria’s eyes like a breached dam. As they streamed down her cheeks, she sniffled. Through broken words she admitted something she had not been able to vocalize until that point: “I don’t feel love for my adopted son, the way I do for my biological kids! I wish I did…but I don’t.”

She had been pushed. And pushed, and pushed, and pushed!

Soon after he arrived in their home the diagnosis came- reactive attachment disorder. It wasn’t a surprise either. Before she became his forever parent, he had bounced through 10 different foster families. Ten different homes with 10 different ideals, some encouraging, some, not so much. In the beginning, he dreamed of the day his birth mother would get clean and he could go home, but that day disappeared like snow on a warm day.

Every single day he pushed every single one of her buttons. He also pushed her bio kids to the edge and beyond. The dis-regulation in her household was too much to bear. Her marriage was on the rocks, her bio kids were checking out and dreaming of the day they could move to college, and she began to struggle with deep depression.

“I get it,” I whispered to her. There was a day, just a few years ago, where I looked at my oldest son and felt zero affection for him. In fact, I even told him one day that I didn’t care if I never saw him again and I wanted him gone from my house. Awful, I know! He too had pushed us to the brink, caused our other children to feel unsafe and insecure, and turned our entire household upside down. It left me cold to the core toward him. I hated that, but I couldn’t help it.

“I really want to love him,” Maria said. “I know he’s been through a lot and this is just that part of him talking. What should I do?”

Heavy question right there! The biggest thing I could tell her was that I understood where she was at. Hundreds of thousands of us adoptive parents have gone through this, and are still going through this. After asking her some deeper questions, and listening to her heart, this is what I shared with her…

  1. You’re not alone. Yes, this is the golden statement you’ve heard us say or write about hundreds of thousands of times over the past few years. But I have to say this because it’s healing ointment for your deepest wounds. There’s something healing about hearing these words, isn’t there? I said this over and over to Maria the day I met her.
  2. Love is more than a feeling. Love is a commitment. It’s showing up day after day for years. It’s weathering the toughest storm. It’s feeling the greatest degree of pain and continuing to fight for the heart of this child you are working hard to care for. This resonated deeply with Maria because she really did want to love her son. And she wanted to fight for him. Sometimes….scratch that…ALL the time with our kiddos, love is hard. It’s rarely the warm fuzzy love. It’s usually the deep commitment…walking through hell…gritting your teeth…and then getting in your car (out of earshot and eyesight) and cussing at the top of your lungs while punching the steering wheel, kind of love.
    Love is a commitment. It’s showing up day after day for years. It’s weathering the toughest storm.
  3. Bonds aren’t formed overnight. Or even in a year, or two years, or three. I’ve read many stories about men and women who had children biologically and had trouble bonding. If that’s the case, how much harder is it for some of us, who didn’t have our children biologically, who’s trauma wasn’t caused by us, to form a bond to them? I’m not saying you won’t ever, I’m just saying, it takes time. I told Maria this. I reassured her that this was a long journey and she had really just started. It took me years to bond to my son and feel a deep love for him. There were days when I thought I never would. But over time, and lots of consistency, it came to be.
  4. You have to parent him different than your bio kids. Because he’s come from a different place than they have. This was the bulk of our conversation that afternoon. Truth is, Maria took extremely good care of herself through all of her pregnancies. Pre-natal vitamins…check! Healthy diet…check! No drugs or alcohol…check! Her bio kiddos grew up in a safe, warm, consistent environment. Her son through adoption did not. I told her, “Every single thing he says and does, he’s saying and doing from a place of fear. A place of uncertainly and deep anxiety. Remember that and understand that every single day is a different moment than the day before. You have to parent him with a consistency and structure that your other children may not have needed.

Can I just say to you reading this right now….I see you….I know you….I understand exactly what you’re going through with your children. I know how much you WANT to love them, but how CRAZY they make you, and how that creates such a canyon between you and them. I know the tears that drip from your eyes. I know the anger and frustration you feel to the core of your being when you see your bio kids, or your other children who have found permanency, so angry and dis-regulated because of your one child who disrupts everything.

I know. Not only do I see you, I AM you! And I’m cheering for you my friend. This is a safe place. This is a voice speaking directly to you letting you know, “It’s okay to not be okay right now!”

So let me rub some ointment in the wound right now: YOU are not alone!

Are you in this place with your kiddo right now? Have you struggled to feel love for them? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.