It’s normal for children to be extremely curious about their adoption stories. When they are young, they will question the circumstances that led to adoption but calmly accept the answers. However, adolescents will usually demand fuller, more factual answers. As a more sophisticated critical thinker, an adolescent might start to wonder why their birth parents gave them up. Was there something wrong with them? Are they unlovable? These feelings can cause even more stress and confusion during a time of life that is already difficult.
Here are some common adoption-related questions your teenage daughter might have:
Why Was I Adopted?
Adopted teens are full of questions like “Why was I given away? Was there something wrong with me? Did they abuse me? Why couldn’t they take care of me?” One of the biggest challenges for adoptive parents is explaining their child’s adoption story. Parents often want to hide the information that is difficult for their child to hear. While it makes perfect sense to want to protect your child from heartache, it’s important that they know the truth during this developmental stage. Sometimes you don’t know the real reason that led the birth parents to give up their child. If this is the case, tell your teen that and you can speculate on the reasons together.
What is the True Story About my Birth Parents?
Young children may be comfortable living with broad, general ideas about their birth parents, but adolescents want the detailed facts. They want to know why and how they were put up for adoption. As a parent, you might be nervous to share information that could be upsetting. But you must understand that when there is a void, teens will start to create their own ideas about their birth parents. These fantasies are often more damaging to their identity than the actual facts. In most cases, the truth will be freeing for your teen. There is no perfect time for sharing difficult information with your daughter. Her temperament and emotional and intellectual maturity will determine when it’s time to process upsetting information. As an adolescent, your daughter has a new cognitive capacity to process information and consider facts and emotions.
Why Do I Feel Like an Outcast?
For most adolescents, whether they’re adopted or not, feeling like an outcast is the worst possible curse. Being adopted can make this sense of feeling “different” and “strange” even more extreme. Adoptees may be of a different race or from another cultural background than their adoptive family, and seeing peers who are raised in biologically related families can make them feel even more different. For these teens, finding a sense of belonging can be extremely difficult. It’s important to address these feelings of being different with your daughter. If she is a different race than you, you need to ask her if she’s been treated unkindly at school because of how she looks. It’s essential to make sure that your teen never feels alone in these trials.
How We Help at the CERTS Group
If adoption issues are causing behavioral and emotional problems in your teenage daughter, the CERTS Group can help. The CERTS Group is a family of specialized residential treatment centers and boarding schools for adolescent girls who are struggling with emotional issues, eating disorders, drug abuse and other problems. Our programs have a structure based upon Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) while combining traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies (equine assisted psychotherapy, art therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, etc.) to achieve a resilient, more influential change.