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Q: How can adoptive parents lessen the feelings of abandonment that their child may experience because of their divorce?

During the Creating a Family show on the Impact of Divorce in Adoption, we received the following question:

For my daughter this is the realities of her life. She has a mom and a dad, who are now divorced. She has one sister that is our biological child, a birth mother and birth father, 2 sibs on her birth father’s side that she has no contact or knowledge about, one half-sister that her birth mom is parenting that she had met on a few occasions, a step mother, and now a half-brother by her dad and step-mom. My daughter feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere and that family relationships are tenuous at best. I’m at a loss at how to help her.

A: Children have a deep need to be felt, heard, and understood. While a larger family network that has complicated relationships may not be able to always provide this, a single person can. I wanted to encourage your listener to not be caught up in her daughter’s confusion of the family dynamics, but rather be the one that gives her daughter that centeredness.

A single adult can mitigate those feelings by providing that stable, secure, and supportive relationship that allows the child to be heard and can alleviate the feelings of abandonment. A parent should not have to feel that everything else needs to “go right” before they can provide this for their child. They can provide it right now.

ALL children of divorce deal with anger, loss, sadness, and confusion. Your child’s reaction may be compounded by abandonment issues from adoption, but their reaction is not likely to be outside of normal boundaries. As a dedicated, loving, invested parent you have what it takes in the here and now to make your child feel different, and better about themselves. Be a safe and predictable parent. Be steady in your emotions. Create choices for them. Show them that despite difficulties, the world is fun. Help nurture and protect their interests.

Ann Cleary is the Director of Holt International’s California Branch Office. She received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in children’s mental health. For more information on this topic, listen to the Creating a Family radio show: Impact of Divorce on Adopted Children and visit our blog post on: 7 Things Divorcing Adoptive Parents Must Do

Image Creadit: Josh Willink