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.
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.
“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.”