Teen Adoption and Attachment Issues

Often parents with an adopted child wonder whether, when, if and how to tell their child that he or she is adopted.  Many also wonder and worry if adopted children face special problems or challenges. Most child and teen therapists recommend that the child be told about the adoption by the adoptive parents in a way that they can understand and at an age that is appropriate.

 There are differing beliefs from professional therapists regarding the age that a child should be told they are adopted. Many experts believe the child should be told at the youngest possible age. This approach provides the child an early opportunity to accept and integrate the concept of being "adopted." Other experts believe that telling a child too early may confuse the young child who can't really understand the information. These experts advise waiting until the child is older.

Help for teen adoption and attachment issues

Either way, children need to be informed of their adoption from the adoptive parents. This helps give the message that adoption is good and that the child can trust the parents. If the child first learns about the adoption intentionally or accidentally from someone other than parents, the child may feel anger and mistrust towards the parents, and may view the adoption as bad or shameful because it was kept a secret.

Adopted children typically want to talk about being adopted and their parents should be willing to engage in these conversations. The way a child reacts to learning of their adoption and their feelings and responses depend on their age and level of maturity. Some may deny the adoption or create fantasies about it. Too often, children who are adopted erroneously believe that they were given away for being bad or conclude there was something flawed about them that resulted in their being adopted.  The most important thing adoptive parents can do is be open in discussing the adoption and present it in a positive light.

 Teens, regardless of whether they are adopted, go through a stage of struggling with their identity, wondering how they fit in with their family and in society.  During the teen years, an adopted child is likely to have an increased interest in the birth parents. This interest is not unusual and does not mean that he or she is rejecting the adoptive parents.  Adoptive parents should let the teen know it is okay to have an interest in knowing about the birth parents.

Adoptive parents often have questions about how to deal with adoption issues and questions from their teen. Parents need support from mental health professionals for these issues.  Family Bootcamp clinicians can provide assistance to parents and teens struggling with adoption and attachment issues.

Additionally, some adopted teens develop emotional or behavioral problems. These problems often stem from emotional insecurities about being adopted.  Participation in therapy services can be a helpful intervention for these teens.

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