Talking with Tweens and Teens about Adoption

How should you talk with children from 10 to 18 about adoption? What are the developmental issues that adoptive parents should consider on how their tweens and teens process adoption? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Sean Delehant, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE), and Stefani Ellison, the Program Director with CASE.

Hit the Highlights
  • How do children process adoption as a tween and as a teen?
  • By age about 13, what information about adoption do we want our children to know?
  • Is it common for kids over the age of say about 10 to have feelings of disloyalty to adoptive parents if they think about birth parents, and what can parents do to let them know that they don’t have to?
  • How to talk about adoption if your teen does not want to have this conversation?
  • My daughter seems to be very angry at her birth parents for the choices they made in life that lead to her being in foster care and ultimately to our adopting her. How do we help her? Creating a Family always says to speak respectfully about birth parents to our kids, but what if it’s the child that is speaking disrespectfully about the birth parent?
  • How to handle if children are angry at their adoptive parents for being adopted.
  • Strategies for dealing with it effectively when your child appears to be rejecting you, but is really just separating from you, in a developmentally appropriate way.
  • When adolescents idolize of fantasize about birth parents (“my birth mom would let me do it”).
  • How to help child deal with things that out of our control as parents and his control as the kid. Example: we are waiting for what seems like forever for the state to send papers to our attorney so he can file the adoption petitions. I mean MONTHS. And our son is so antsy. We don’t know how to calm him and assure him things are still moving forward when things move so slow.
  • How to handle the lack of info about birth fathers, especially when your child is male. What to be on the lookout for, and how to help them as they build their own image of what a man and a father is.
  • How to share difficult adoption information with the child when they are teens. (Example: birth parent in jail, birth mother an addict, child was conceived by rape).
  • Being a teenager is a time of looking outwards for acceptance. How to navigate that effectively and in a healthy way as someone who was relinquished, or who may have obvious, hidden or unresolved attachment issues?
  • How to help kids come to grips with their relinquishment, as they start to really understand all that it means.
  • How to broach the discussion of birth parent search with your child, set the stage that it will be supported if it is chosen, but to not imply that it should be chosen or that they should search.
  • In transracial adoption what are some typical issues that transracial adopted tween and teens might experience?
  • Tips for talking with tweens and teens about adoption.

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Image credit: Mark Harrington