Why is this so hard for some adoptive parents to get?

25 Feb

The question I keep asking myself is how to get some adoptive parents to step outside of their bubble of ‘how beautiful adoption is’ long enough to see the full picture of what adoption can be like for the one adopted over the course of their life.  From the parent who said that their 2.5 year old won’t have a “primal wound” because they are just so filled with joy, to the parent of a tween who hears only what they want to hear from their child, never stopping to ask themselves if they pre-conditioned their child to only tell them what they want to hear, or that what they say can be part of how they feel, not all of what they feel.

And no, I’m not saying the child in either example above will struggle with being adopted, or that all struggle with being adopted.  I am saying that there are parents who will struggle to help their children deal with the challenges being adopted brings, specifically when they hit their teens.  Then add-on the mantra espoused that adoption is so different today that our children won’t have the same “issues” adoptees from our era had that is problematic too, because for some, they didn’t expect their children to have those challenges, yet they did, and they may feel like they are failing, they may be unsure of how to help.  And that problem was created because agencies told them what they wanted to hear, believe, and now struggle with how to help their child.  They were failed by how adoption is practised by some.  I feel for these parents.  We need to get past this assumption that being open and talking openly about adoption fixes all the hard parts of adoption and being adopted.  It doesn’t.  It can’t.  And walking in blindly assuming openness makes it all better for all adoptees is setting some families up for failure, and that isn’t fair.  It’s doubly hard when you add-on all the layers being a transracial adoptive family brings, being a transracial adoptee has to be incredibly hard to deal with in today’s world.

What I can tell an adoptive parent struggling to find the right way to help their teen, maybe it will help…

I’m not the only adoptee to have had a strong continual relationship throughout their life with their parents, while also really struggling in their teen years, being one of those teens you don’t want your child to be like, and no, I never got in trouble, but I was acting out my feelings about being adopted.  Why other adoptees struggled in their teens, you’d have to ask them to understand all the different ways we feel.  I know why I struggled; the not being kept part, not being good enough to fight for, not having knowledge part, not being able to ask why, and yet, even if I’d had access, I wouldn’t have been strong enough to hear my mother answer; I didn’t want you, instead of I couldn’t keep you.  I doubt I would have been able to risk hearing the former to ask in the first place.

Would anyone reading this be strong enough to hear your mother tell you she didn’t want you, let alone someone who wasn’t kept.  Have you ever asked yourself how you’d feel about all the questions your child might be pondering.  Try it sometime, then apply it to your teen self, and ask how you’d react.  Perhaps talk to your teen about what makes them struggle right now, ask yourself if you’d have struggled too if that had been your reality, talk about it if you think it would help.

Share your empathy on why they are struggling.  If you struggled with infertility or pregnancy loss, draw on the reasons why you struggled to better understand what and why your child is struggling.  The two have more in common than you’d think.

And I wonder how adoptees with contact deal with the hard parts; do they ask the hard questions, or would they be like me not willing to rock the boat, because they know they wouldn’t survive if the answer was I didn’t want you enough to fight for you.  How many with contact act out and become one of those teens like me.  Is openness really the panacea to an adopted teen struggling.  Does it make it that much easier, or does it just become a different dance with different rules for the updated version of the adoption game.

Never assume how your child feels now, won’t change when they hit the teen years, even if they don’t act out, their feelings evolve as they mature, being adopted is for life.

Where did all this come from? Reading the adoption studies below, combined with friends who are adoptive parents who are, or may face dealing with this with their child.  Teen and emerging adulthood is often hard, add in being adopted, then add in more layers if it’s a transracial adoptee to make it even harder. When you delve into why it’s hard for the one adopted you will find many layers, feelings, and fears, including what everyone else may think or feel adding to the burden being struggled with and why they may not be sharing it with you.

“The Role of Adoption Communicative Openness in Information Seeking Among Adoptees From Adolescence to Emerging Adulthood”

From the MTARP study, a longitudinal adoption study broken down into Waves. This study is based on “The subsample consisted of 59 males and 60 females. At Wave 2 they were between the ages of 11.9 and 20.8 (mean = 15.9). At Wave 3, range in age was 21 to 29.5 (mean = 25.2).”

“Results confirmed that information seeking intentions in adolescence do not remain static over time for the majority of adoptees. For the most part, movement took place across 1 or 2 levels suggesting that change is a relatively gradual process. Tentative steps in either direction on the information seeking spectrum possibly point to adoptees’ awareness of the potentially sensitive nature of information seeking and the choices they make about whether or not to search which likely includes consideration of other individuals in the adoption kinship network on whom those choices will have an impact.”

Never assume that adoptees don’t evolve in whether to search or not…

“On the other hand, several emerging adults who were actively seeking or had obtained information at Wave 3 indicated in adolescence that they would not seek information in the future. This finding indicates that it is possible for intentions to change quite drastically between adolescence and emerging adulthood, even though the majority of adoptees experience more subtle changes.”

Please stop and think of the heavy burden placed on adoptees…

“The decision whether or not to seek information is unique to each adoptee and is likely influenced by multiple individual and family-level factors such as amount of desire for or access to information, level of satisfaction with existing family relationships, concern regarding outcome of a search, cost and time spent, and impact of the search on others in the adoption kinship network, including birth and adoptive family members.”

And the study below addresses other aspects not covered in the above study.  Worth reading at least the discussion and demographics of the participants.

Adoption Status and Family Relationships During the Transition to Young Adulthood

“From the Sibling Interaction and Behavior Study, the purpose of this study is to build upon previous research to explore differences in conflict, closeness, and relationship quality between adoptive and nonadoptive families during the transition from late adolescence into young adulthood.” 


Posted by on February 25, 2018 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , , ,

18 responses to “Why is this so hard for some adoptive parents to get?

  1. pj

    February 26, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Yes, this was me: “I’m not the only adoptee to have had a strong continual relationship throughout their life with their parents, while also really struggling in their teen years, being one of those teens you don’t want your child to be like, and no, I never got in trouble, but I was acting out my feelings about being adopted.” Although I couldn’t have verbalized why I was struggling, or why I ALWAYs had a conflicted relationship with mom who only gave me unconditional love, encouragement and support. We were just sooo different. She asked the questions, but the answers were somewhere in my subconscious. She gave me all the limited info she had when I was 18, although I didn’t search until decades later. I sometimes wonder if I waited so long because I would be strong enough to face the truth, my birth mother did not want to raise me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      February 26, 2018 at 2:36 pm

      It’s all so confusing at that age, not being able to verbalize what those feelings were was a problem. It was just a really hard age.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dannie

    February 26, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    goodness, I work with tweens as the public school I’m stationed at is preK-8th grade….and my tweens I see for speechtherapy have such angst over the smallest things, I’m not understanding how aparents cannot be more empathetic towards their kids when the angst is not over small things. Just my 2 cents as my daughter is only 8.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      February 26, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      Dannie, you know you’ve always been open to all experiences, part of what makes you unique, you listen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dannie

        February 26, 2018 at 5:02 pm

        E was having a “woe is me, life isn’t fair” type morning because S had been sick and woke up with a fever so my dad picked him up to take care of him instead of him going to preK and E was saying how her life is so miserable……sometimes I’m like “I suck as a parent if she’s saying that” and sometimes I think it’s the natural comparison between siblings….but sometimes I feel like I earn a big fat F on parenting for the day. I try and I hope at the end of the day that she knows I love and support her no matter what……the angst some days 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • TAO

          February 26, 2018 at 6:47 pm

          You don’t suck, that’s the comparison game that happens in every home that has more than one child… 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Dannie

            February 26, 2018 at 7:39 pm

            LOL as an only child, sometimes I am learning this sibling thing as I have limited first hand knowledge of that dynamic

            Liked by 1 person

            • TAO

              February 26, 2018 at 8:10 pm

              Wait till they start playing mom and against dad – as in mom told one no to going to the park so the other asks dad if they can go to the park…kids always win btw in the double-teaming the parents…have fun

              Liked by 1 person

  3. theadoptiontale

    February 27, 2018 at 12:59 am

    Hello, Tao. I have recently come across your blog, and I must say I can relate very much to what you’ve said. I was adopted from China to white parents, and moved to Canada.

    I’ve definitely had self-identity issues growing up. Even now, I still struggle with some aspects of adoption. It’s definitely difficult, I think, for transracial adoption. In my case, I was raised around my fair-skinned, light-haired, and blue-eyed family members. Even though they have never seen me less than a family member, I have felt a bit like the black sheep amongst them, with my yellow skin, black hair and eyes. As well, since the world around me was white, I began to become white-washed. In my mind, I saw myself as a white girl. I thought that maybe boys would like me better if I had blue eyes and golden hair.

    I’ve had some pretty derogatory remarks made towards me. People have asked how much my parents paid for me. Why my parents adopted me when there were white, Canadian children in the orphanage. Comments like those greatly infuriate me.

    Sometimes I feel as though part of me is missing. I’ve always had an odd fascination with family relationships for some reason (especially the twin bond), yet am unable to form close relationships with others. I don’t know many details – my birth family, my birthday, etc. I have so many questions I’d like to ask. I’ve had many issues as a result of being adopted. Obviously, I am happy to have such an amazing family, but some people are simply uneducated and narrow-minded towards my family.

    Sorry for the lengthy post. I just had to get that off my mind, it’s been bugging me for years. I am definitely going to be touching topics like this on my own blog.


    • TAO

      February 27, 2018 at 4:30 am

      theadoptiontale – big hug first of all, you are welcome to join our small community.

      Being a transracial adoptee has so many other layers in adoption to the adoption layers to deal with. I’m sorry that your folks didn’t realise that we all need mirrors and being transracial you need racial mirrors too.

      I can tell you the adoption feelings you describe are very normal feelings for an adoptee to have, so never get down on yourself for having them. We are here, we get the adoption feelings, we’ve experienced them, and it’s hard for non-adopted to get even when they try.

      Your fascination with family is so very normal, especially you having even less information that we had. Have you considered trying to search and the dna test? There has be some adopted from China who have made breakthroughs – there’s a group of 100? adoptees (young adoptees and their parents) from China in Canada who are doing a dna test, it’s been in the Canadian News lately, have you read about it?

      Welcome, I hope you stick around and your comments will post automatically from now on – be brave and talk to those that comment here, they’ll welcome you. Take care, TAO


    • TAO

      February 27, 2018 at 4:42 am

      Story about the DNA test


  4. Lara/Trace

    February 27, 2018 at 1:36 am

    I have an adopted brother who told me once if “I” found his birth parents he might be interested. My a-brother is a scary blocked drug-addicted guy and at his age now will never heal or be able to take one step in any search for family. Damaged by the primal wound is my belief. He is so blocked, he could snap and this terrifies me. Some adoptees can never be reached. (He never sought any therapy, not even for drug addiction.) Even though we were raised in the same home, light and day difference.


    • Pj

      February 27, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      I had an older brother, adopted when he was 9.I was fearful of him -he didn’t always lead the most lawful life-and hadn’t heard from him in decades. He found me and left a message several years ago but I didn’t respond. I later learned he had cancer and and passed away.At end of his life he needed a family connection I couldn’t provide….it is all so sad.


    • TAO

      February 27, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      I agree and it makes me deeply sad there are wounds that can’t ever even reach the stage of being a scar.


      • Pj

        February 27, 2018 at 8:30 pm

        Tao, I love how you’re able to express how adoptees feel. I was also adopted with a twin brother. He’s extremely intelligent, extremely distant and I barely know him. Same home/womb, night and day difference..


        • TAO

          February 27, 2018 at 8:40 pm

          Thanks Pj – I appreciate that.


  5. Sally

    February 28, 2018 at 12:33 am

    Thank you for this post. It’s excellent and bears repeating!


    • TAO

      February 28, 2018 at 4:25 am

      Thank you Sally



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