Teens and Open Adoption
Nurturing an open adoption is a lifelong process. Often, when parents are thinking about the relationship between their children and the birth mom, they think only about early years. They assume that a solid foundation in early childhood will easily lead to a long-term relationship that lasts through adulthood. Factually, there are just as many nuances and concerns during the teen years as there are when the children are younger.
Teenagers have a host of concerns that can make many days challenging. They are suddenly stuck in an uncomfortable place between childhood and adulthood. Their rapidly changing bodies, including their minds and thoughts, can cause confusion and frustration. Those children who have been adopted may have even more anxiety. A teenager wants to know that he or she is loved and accepted by everyone. Adopted teenagers may begin to lash out at birth parents. They might start to fear that they are not worthy of love or acceptance because they were placed for adoption. This lashing out may strain future relationships, especially with birth moms who are not used to living with teenagers.
Adoptive parents should talk to their children about their anxieties. Rather than allowing these children to focus their confusion or anger on the birth moms, adoptive parents can ask them to try to understand why they were placed for adoption. They should go through the reasons for the adoption, remind them that the biological parents would have chosen adoption for any child they had given birth to at that moment in their lives and that the end result has been a positive one for everyone. Adoptive parents might also consider finding counseling for their teenage children, but only if those children are interested and willing to speak with a counselor. If an adoptee does not like the idea of seeing a specialist, he or she should be encouraged to keep a diary, a blog or find an appropriate online community that is both safe and nurturing. Should the children choose the latter, it is vital that adoptive parents also join this social presence in order to keep a watchful eye on internet activity.
While it is normal for teenagers to react in anger or sadness from frustration, others may simply want to develop a closer relationship with their birth parents. They may want to have extended stays with the birth mom. Some may ask to have overnight or even full week visits. Adoptive parents must decide what is best. If a strong relationship with the birth mom has already been established, adoptive parents should have enough information to know whether or not this is a good idea. If this relationship is still somewhat distant, the parents may ask for a compromise. Perhaps the adoptee could spend more time with the birth mom, but in a safe space that includes the entire family. Teenagers may put their parents at arm’s length, but they need just as much love and support a child of any age. It is when things are the most difficult that the most love is required.
Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.
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