Cocooning After Adoption


When we think of the advice given to us upon coming home from an adoption, I think being told to “cocoon” the new child is the most foreign advice for many.  It is misunderstood and it feels impossible.

Cocooning is limiting caregivers and exposure to new places and people in an attempt to help a child attach to their new parents as caregivers.  Here we give an overview of parenting children from hard places and it gives a lot of insight about why this intensive work to bond and build connection is so critical. (Link:

During the early months of the COVID lockdown, I saw some beautiful things come from it.  People talked about slowing down, having dinners at home, having more time to enjoy and truly spend time with their children and spouses, playing games, and having time for crafts and activities they simply hadn’t had time for prior to the unexpected slow-down.

It gave me some time to reflect on how coming home from an adoption and “cocooning” is very much like that!

Why Cocoon?

  • Create and strengthen bonds between the parents and child (and siblings, too!)
  • Meet needs of child in controlled environment
  • Emphasize ‘Yes” and Minimize “No” opportunities (think: avoid walking by the candy store with a child you are trying to detox from sugar, for example)
  • Each family member can negotiate their new roles.  Adoption of an older child is sometimes said to be more like a marriage than having a baby.  Each person has agreed to embark into this new family together and everyone’s place and role in the family is figured out over time in the new home.

What Cocooning IS:

  • Being mindful of what you go do - and planning around your child’s needs (overstimulation, heat/cold, food/water)
  • Setting yourself up for success -- Knowing the environment you’re going to.  Set up for the Yes
  • Making sure YOU are the one meeting your child’s needs
  • Supporting the relationships within the house in a positive way (Stick together, no hurts, have fun)
  • A LOT of time connecting with each other
  • Learning about your child’s triggers and patterns of behaviors and being able to better predict and prevent being in situations that are NOT setting you up for success

What Cocoon ISN’T:

  • Not going anywhere
  • Not seeing any of your friends and family
  • Keeping  your child isolated from the world

For many families, after a long adoption process and being so eager to have their child HOME, they long for nothing more than their life being the normal they are accustomed to - and to help their child/ren get integrated into their life.  But years of research suggests to “pause” all of that.

Cocooning is an investment - a short term delay to “getting life back to normal” for a long term payoff.  It is an opportunity to best help your child achieve “felt safety” in the home and to learn to rely on you, their parents and caregivers.  Many older adopted children especially have a built-in mindset (from their experiences) to not rely on ANYONE.

So while no one wants to revisit the lockdown we experienced in early 2020, it is a great frame of reference to think about when bringing a new child home and searching for those beautiful moments we experienced while slowing down.


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Traci Mai

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