Adolescents of Adoption: Identity Formation / Grief / Attachment / Abandonment of Self
Understanding the importance of addressing adoption topics before the age of adolescents is imperative to healthy developmental growth, however it is never too late to prepare and repair relationships.
As parents knowing what to say and when is difficult and that’s where I come in to assist in guiding your family through each life-stage of development. Your child looks to you for safety and acceptance of self, so they will be as comfortable with the topic of birth parents and adoption as you are.
If you have younger children now is the time to confront these topics with age appropriateness. Once the child reaches adolescence their developmental goals are to begin to separate from their parents. If they have no sense of who they are biologically, difficultly can arise as they attempt to individuate from you without a healthy sense of self. This can leave them felling confused and lost, often sparking feelings of abandonment, questioning their own self-worth, rejecting the help of others, feeling numb or dissociated, often acting out to try on different identities as they struggle to understand who they are “supposed” to be.
As an Adoption Competent Therapist I increase your understanding and awareness of the language around adoption, the meaning to each member within the family system, attend to attachment concerns and address the potential long-term trauma response of your child in their functioning moving forward.
You cannot take away your child’s pain. They must work through it for themselves, however you can remind them of your unconditional love and support. You do this by acknowledging their feelings and providing the means by which they can work through their pain.
I am not only an Adoption Competent Therapist I am an adoptive parent of two and an adoptee myself. I have the direction you need.
Adolescent Identity Development
- Presenting Issues: Abandonment, Loss, Rejection, Trust, Intimacy, Loyalty, Guilt and Shame, Power and Control and Identity.
- Adoptees have a more difficult time with this developmental stage especially if they don’t have a sense of their history.
- Need to address feelings around relinquishment and adoption.
- The importance of knowing ones past before planning their future.
- Adoptees tend to identify with their perception of their birth mother, young, promiscuous and confused- possibly like they are feeling. They may yearn to connect in that same manner.
- The inability to identify with (adoptive) parents can bring about destructive behavior. Where do I belong?
- This can bring about feelings of hurt and rejection by both child and parents. The behavior of the adoptee can become intolerable and may result in parents setting limits about living in the family home.
- Sometimes these children will leave home prematurely as a means of controlling their internal feelings of rejection.
- Genetic distance: Physical character traits, interests, talents, and personality traits unrevealed.
- Many adolescent pregnancies with individuals who came into their families through adoption are often a need to have a connection with someone that looks like them.
- Due to a lack of “rightness” the child may believe that the world is purposeless, chaotic and irrational. Causing difficulties in having faith and spirituality. This results in feeling more alone in the world.
- Even though they may want to identify with their adoptive parents the inherited traits may make that difficult. I don’t look like you.
- Adoptees have a Swiss cheese identity, They have lots of holes in it. If the identity is challenged by physical appearance, personality and ethnicity or culture then that identification is that much harder for them to process without support.
- Where do I fit in? Becomes their question for the world. Often adoptees are in a state where they don’t feel like they fit in their adoptive family due to physical or personality differences, but once seeing or experiencing their Birth Family feel as if they don’t fit in there either due to environmental cultural differences. Decision: I don’t belong.
- Loss is the theme of Adoption: Adoptee is feeling the loss of the birthmother, the birthmother is feeling the loss of the child, and the adoptive parents are feeling loss of their fertility (if applicable) and genetic continuity. Can result in unpredictable feelings if not explored honestly.
- Adoptive parents often feel inadequate and totally rejected as parents. Nothing they do ever seems enough.
- Allow your child to be themselves. Withdraw expectations which are alien to his personality, proclivities and talents and value his uniqueness.
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings, never say that “you shouldn’t feel that way!” All feelings come from the unconscious and are what they are. Feelings aren’t facts. A person doesn’t have to act on their feelings but they do need to take responsibility for their behavior.
- NEVER THREATEN ABANDONMENT! Even though a child pushes for it, it is NEVER what he/she wants.It is what the child expects.
- Our own “nicks to the soul” (adoptive parents) are triggered by the pain of our child. Often our children will bring out parts of our personality due to their experiences allowing us to grow in new and better ways.
- This can be astonishing to parents as they believe that their child had made a great adjustment and they become consumed with their own parenting. Leaving them feeling betrayed by their previously docile child and unable to cope with the current situation.
- Sending the child away for treatment can be very damaging to the adoptee, however it may be necessary as a last resort. This will exacerbate and reinforce the abandonment issue.
Reunions with Birthmothers/ BirthFathers
- Finding the birthmother might serve to release the anxieties felt by adoptees who doubt the permanency of their relationship to their adoptive parents. Strengthening your relationship with your child.
- Reunions often seem to have a calming effect helping all relationships in the triad.
- There is a release of tension and a renewal of life through understanding. Regaining a part of the self.
- Searching for the birthmother/Birthfather can be in the best interest of the adoptee. Even if the the reunion is not ideal, questions are answered and a sense of continuity is established for the adoptee. the healing can continue and let go.
- The child is the only one in Triad who has had no control over their lives. Taking that control is when problems can arise.
- The fear of the adoptive mother to lose their child to the biological birth mother is a real feeling that may exist within without awareness. Identifying your own fears are necessary for your own healing.
Personality and Behavior
- Personality is the essence of a person, Behavior is a way of expressing their struggles, accomplishments, loss, happiness, grief, etc.
- They must mourn their loss- Birth trauma. If they don’t it will play out over and over throughout their lives and in each relationship.