Even in families that have great communication and talk openly about adoption, tweens and teens face challenges they may not talk to you about.
These are tough years and adoption can make this time a bit more difficult to navigate. Dori Fujii, LCSW and adoption therapist, shares some insight into what your kids want you to know – even if they’re not telling you.
Middle School is HARD
It’s a rough passage for all kids. For adopted kids, leaving the relative comfort of grade school can be even more of a challenge. They may have a complicated “story” and feel different in ways that other kids do not. Tweens and teens also begin to think about their adoption in a more nuanced way. Cognitively, they are able to make connections they hadn’t made before. They understand the complexity of their story, feel the losses and difficult feelings that adoption brings, and have questions they may not have had before. They may begin to feel differently about themselves and their parents. Likewise, their peers will have questions and attitudes that can be difficult.
So what can you do?
Know that these are real feelings – even though your tween/teen may not share these feelings with you. After all, this is a time when formerly talkative kids often become more quiet and distant. Recognize the differences in your family – even if you’re not a "conspicuous" adoptive family.
Continue to value the relationship with your child’s birth family whether or not you have an open adoption relationship. Provide your child with opportunities to develop an interest or skill that they feel good about….perhaps related to their birth family or culture. Strengthen connections to your child’s culture and adult mentors of your child’s background.
Consider a homeland tour to your child’s birth country. Validate their feelings and have ongoing discussions about adoption, difference and race – they’ll join the conversation when they’re ready.
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