Insights on Parenting an Adopted Teen

Insights on parenting adopted teen - motherhooddiaries

Almost everyone understands implicitly that parenting an infant is a full-time job. Most prospective adoptive parents who pursue an infant adoption know, in advance, that almost every waking moment will be spent caring for the child. But adolescents and teenagers, although we usually think of them as independent, autonomous individuals, need lots of attention, too, especially when they’re in the beginning stages of forming new familial bonds.

The importance of family time

The importance of family time -

In fact, there’s evidence to show that “family time,” which doesn’t have to be active engagement, might be more important for teenagers than for younger children. Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that a number of time kids between the ages of 3 and 11 spend with their parents doesn’t seem to change the likelihood of undesirable outcomes, like drug and alcohol abuse and lower academic performance, later. But once children hit 12, just sharing the same room with a child can have a major impact on their emotional and social development.

Build a strong stable environment

The structure is key here. Many older adopted children have experienced some form of trauma in their lives. For most, life without a stable, consistent home has been a tenuous affair, and the concept of family can become synonymous with impermanence. It can be just as difficult for teens to adjust to the idea that your home will be permanent, and you have no intention of rejecting them. It’s important to be reliable and a steady presence around which they can begin to structure their own lives. That means making plans and sticking to them.

Learn about your teen’s history

Learn your teen's history - motherhooddiaries

You’re building a new life with your child, but don’t hastily discard every element of their previous living situation. If snacks were always served at 1 pm in their foster home, and they relied on that regularity, maybe you can have a snack at 1 pm, too. As a more general point, learn everything you possibly can about a waiting teen’s history. Waiting infants don’t really have a history yet, but adolescents and teens may have spent years in a foster home or other institution. Find out early what medical and psychological issues a waiting child will need to deal with, and then consider whether you can afford to adequately meet those needs.

Obviously, adopted teens are still teenagers, undergoing drastic physical and psychological changes. There’s a corollary process of self-definition, or identity formation going on, which can be more difficult for adopted teens. Adoption asks teenagers to define their own place within a family, while the traditional trajectory of growing up, and strong biological and social signals, tell them to distance themselves.

Keep communication lines open

Support and communication are crucial throughout this period when teens are beginning to experiment with various possible lifestyles and starting to ask, “who am I?”, a question that can be even more difficult to answer if you have two families. Be open to questions about a child’s biological parents, and help them explore their cultural and ethnic traditions insofar as you can.

If your teen expresses a desire to communicate with or seek out their biological parents, don’t stand in the way of that desire. It’s not “us vs. them.” At Adoptions from The Heart, we’re strong advocates of open adoption, and we’ve seen hundreds of families strengthened through communication and mutual understanding.

Insights on parenting an adopted teen - #adopting #adoptedteen #parenting

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Maxine Chalker (1 Posts)

Maxine Chalker, MSW, LSW is the founder and executive director of Adoptions From The Heart, a US adoption agency with offices in 5 states. Herself an adoptee, Maxine was an early pioneer of “open adoption,” a philosophy that stresses communication, over secrecy, in the adoption process. Adoptions from the heart: Maxine's LinkedIn Profile -