It’s not uncommon for adoptive, foster, and kinship families to struggle with the impacts of the trauma our children have experienced. We might know that our kids’ challenging behaviors stem from abuse, neglect, or other traumatic events in their past. However, knowing it doesn’t stop the hurt. How do you know when it is time to find a therapist for your family’s pain and challenges?

Is There a Downside to Seeking Help?

Behaviors in your house feel out of control. Ugly attitudes and disrespect are flaring quickly. Relationships between siblings seem to be disintegrating almost before your eyes. You (and your partner if you have one) may feel like you are holding on by a thread, mentally and emotionally. You ask yourselves, “is this normal family stuff? Or is it time for some professional help?”

There is no “right or wrong” answer to those questions. That ambiguity might not help in the middle of a challenging season. However, what might help is knowing that most families do better navigating the impacts of trauma when they seek help from an adoption-competent therapist or counselor sooner than later.

Suppose it turns out that you are seeking help for typical or appropriate family challenges. In that case, the reassurance you gain is worth the time and effort, especially if you also learn a few new parenting tools. From that perspective, there really is no downside to checking in with an adoption- or foster-competent therapist about your family’s challenges.

7 Core Issues in Adoption and Foster Care

What are the Warning Signs?

These warning signs can help you (and your partner) find clarity when you wonder if it’s time to see an adoption-competent therapist.

Feeling “stuck.”

You feel like your family relationships are stagnant and not progressing. You feel like one child is stuck and unable to move forward in relationships.

Sensing dissatisfaction

There is a general discontent in current family dynamics or with your adopted, foster, or kinship child’s ability to connect in your family.

Observing a negative impact or cycle

You may have noticed that the family dynamics negatively impact your child(ren) or their ability to function. Members of the family have a sense that they cannot be their best selves right now in this dynamic.

Feeling stress, isolation, or loneliness

Even in the context of family relationships or in other significant relationships, members of your family feel alone and isolated.

Feeling that you need more

You might not feel “desperate” or in crisis yet. Still, there’s a sense that you and your family would benefit from additional support and a safe place to process these challenges you are experiencing.

What are the Next Steps?

If any of these warning signs resonate with you, it is time to find a therapist or counselor. We know that it can be challenging. In addition to figuring out how to add one more thing to your busy calendar, seeking therapy is intimidating. It’s also hard to carve time out to find the right fit for your family – especially when you must consider other logistics like insurance coverage and payment options.

It’s not uncommon for many therapists to have long waitlists due to the impacts of the pandemic on mental and emotional well-being. The mental health system is challenging to navigate. However, we encourage you to power through all these (and other) potential obstacles. Try to commit to making the best choice you can with what you know.

Below are a few additional resources to help you find the right fit for your family.

Image Credits: Gustavo Fring; cottonbro studio; Arnie Chou