The teen years are stressful enough. And, we're talking about FOR the teens this time. Not only are teens trying to figure out who they are within the context of their peer group, their family, and society at large but if they are adopted then the equation becomes significantly more complicated.
During these years when teens are figuring out their identities they take multiple factors into account. And they do all of this within the context of a developing brain, raging hormonal upheaval, and parents who are often befuddled and bewildered by their behavior and about what to do.
It is no wonder why the teen years sometimes become a time of struggle for adopted teens. They have additional questions that they ask including:
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1. What were my biological parents like?
2. Am I going to turn out like them?
3. Why did they give me up? They didn't even take the time to get to know me.
4. Will I be abandoned repeatedly since I was already abandoned by my biological parents? Imagine how hard it must be for the adolescent to experience and deal with the loss of an unknown person.
5. Do I have other siblings?
6. Will I get to meet my biological parents?
For parents of adopted teens-here are some suggestions:
1. Ask your teen what they would like to know about their biological parents and then try to deliver the information that you have in a sensitive and loving manner.
2. Reassure your teen that you are in his/her life forever and that you chose to adopt him. To you, he was no accident of nature.
3. Discuss the pros and cons of trying to get in touch with the biological parents. Discuss the reality of your teen's expectations.
4. Remind your teen that we are all products of both our genetic material, our environments, and our choices. Not one of us turns out to be a carbon copy of a bioligical parent.
5. If you can't address the topic of the adoption without falling apart then seek out the help of your family, friends, a support group, or a professional. This is obviously a difficult and emotionally loaded topic.
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Barbara R. Greenberg, Ph.D. is currently a professional consultant on teen issues at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT. She also maintains a private practice in Fairfield County, CT.
She served as a clinical administrator on an adolescent inpatient unit at a private psychiatric hospital for 21 years before dedicating herself to private outpatient practice and consultation work.
She and her professional partner, Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy.D, met over a decade ago during an interview for a clinical position. That first introduction resulted in a meeting of the minds. What started as a professional relationship has bloomed into a strong friendship and has served as an even greater support network for each other’s triumphs and challenges.
"From early on in our respective careers we have perceived ourselves as students of adolescent language and behavior. We have listened and learned from the finest of teachers…the hundreds of teens and parents who continue to touch our lives daily."