Even when an adoption story is one of love and support, adopted children still face some substantial psychological and emotional challenges regarding their unique status. There are no simple, universal methods to helping a child cope with the mental phenomena of grief and loss that accompany even the most amicable and lifelong process. Hence, it’s essential that such parents prepare themselves to support their children as they grow. This article explores how adoptive parents can bolster their children’s sense of self and offer support when it’s most needed.
Open Air and Grieving
Even in cases in which adoptive parents have contact with the birth mother, with whom they may also share a culture or ethnicity, children will still experience a sense of loss. What is vital is that the child is allowed to move through the process of grieving at their own pace. In instances that involve a response adoption, bringing a child from another country, this process may occur at an earlier age.
In the past, a common tactic was to seal birth records and refuse to discuss adoption with a child. This approach, as it turns out, was a horrible plan. It has resulted in many adults devoting countless hours and significant personal resources to understanding their true origins. That doesn’t reference the delayed psychological impacts of discovering adoption status as an adolescent or young adult.
Today, most experts invested in the adoption process advise that adoptive parents be open with their children about the process. Any conversation about the adoption should also be as matter-of-fact as possible. Letting these children know that they are wanted and that the choice was made out of love on all sides is often the best course. Yes, they will still suffer the pain of loss and may want to discover more information later in life, but discussing it at a young age can often make the adjustment easier.
In instances where children spend any time in the foster system, the path of adoption can be more challenging. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network asserts that it’s vital that parents who are seeking this option be prepared to help children cope with trauma. This can range from witnessing community violence or violence towards themselves to the pain of losing birth parents or foster families.
The best ways in which prospective parents can prepare themselves for this challenging dynamic are to arm themselves with information and become a part of a supportive adopter community. Knowing as much as possible about the child’s specific background and the potential difficulties they may face will help parents guide their children through a particularly rocky process. Belonging to a community of individuals who have already been there and done that will help parents maintain their equilibrium.
Adoptive parents must arm themselves with as much information about a child’s birth family as possible. When their children reach adolescence, they will enter the most intense phase of identity formation. And while parents may believe that they’ve given a child plenty of building material during their childhood, an adopted child has a unique experience.
Even well-meaning silence on matters such as where they come from and what their birth parents were like can set up a cascade of insecurity in children because it creates a hole. Those seeking to adopt must be prepared to answer questions thoroughly, kindly, and honestly. Along with a life-long, honest adoption narrative in which they know they are wanted and loved, this approach can smooth the path to adulthood for adopted adolescents.
Parents who elect to adopt a child, whether at birth or from a foster situation, do so primarily from a desire to share their love and build their family. But that profoundly personal trove of familial care isn’t enough to sustain them throughout a child’s journey. Support communities help parents remain a positive force in their adopted child’s life. Gathering and sharing information in a calm, loving way is also most comfortable for everyone involved. Shared genetics don’t always make parents, but love does.