• Development

Understanding Issues Experienced by Adoptees

An adopted person tends to experience seven core issues related to their adoption. Identifying these core issues will help them feel and understand their emotions. This will help them to accept their experiences.

Loss

All adopted people have experienced at least one major loss. So, it is crucial to support their expression of these losses so that the healing process can begin.


For young adoptees non-verbal expression like art, music, puppets, or play works best. Older adoptees and adults benefit from being encouraged to write down all the losses.

Whenever possible, families must work to keep losses low for their children. It is important to keep the youths' connections to important people, places, and events. Parents must be assertive in acquiring information about their children’s lives. Things that are usually overlooked can provide a link. Things like pictures, videotapes, shreds of old clothes, and blankets.

Rejection

The feeling of loss can increase with the feeling of rejection. Young adoptees may blame themselves for the abandonment, abuse, or neglect they faced. They may avoid situations where they feel rejected or even provoke it. They tend to believe that they will feel safer if they create a distance in their connections to others. Many of their “acting out” behaviors are made to keep distance.


Loving an adoptive family does not take away the pain of feeling rejected. Parents need to be open and honest in giving age-appropriate information. Parents must avoid taking young adoptees' comments or questions personally. The children aren't rejecting their foster parents, they are curious. Young adoptees need support and validation when they express feelings of rejection. Feelings or fears of rejection can chip away at a person’s self-esteem.

Guilt/Shame

Some adopted people feel that they deserved loss and rejection. This could grow into a feeling of guilt and shame. Guilt that they somehow caused the adoption and shame from where they came from. Embarrassed by their adoptive status, adoptees may hide it from their peers.


Adoptive families need to be sensitive to their children’s feelings of guilt and shame. Adoptees need to understand what happened was not their fault.

Grief

Every loss must be grieved, including adoption-related losses. These losses are difficult to mourn since society sees adoption as a fix-all solution. Grief can wash over adopted people in waves or stages, in times of other losses or transitions. Adoptees must understand that feelings of loss are temporary. These feelings include numbness, sadness, anger, depression, emptiness, and anxiety.


Sometimes grief may not look like grief. Adoptees may have physical symptoms. Such as stomach aches, headaches, colds, appearing disorganized, or being hyperactive. They may "act out" behaviors, or may isolate and withdraw.


Young adoptees find it difficult to grieve their losses, although they are aware of them. Adoptive parents need to make a safe place for the adoptee to express their feelings. They need to listen and offer comfort and hope. Parents must address the past, define what is happening in the present, and give real hope for the future. Avoid rushing the grief process, and understand that the grief will come back again and again.

Identity

Adoption can threaten an adoptee's sense of identity. Adoptees may feel incomplete. Identity is both what a person is or is not. Adoptees lose their identity from their birth family and borrow one from their adopted family. Adoptees question who they are and where they belong. Are they like their birth family or like their adoptive family?


Some adoptees lack medical, genetic, religious, and historical information from their birth parents. They may question why they were born and if it was an accident. Teen adoptees may seek out ways to create a feeling of belonging. Like joining radical sub-cultures, running away, becoming pregnant, or rejecting the adoptive family.


Adoptive parents must support their adoptees in developing a sense of where they come from and who they are. They need additional support and acceptance to explore multiple possibilities.

Intimacy/Relationships

The losses in adoption, feelings of rejection, shame, grief, and identity confusion affect the adoptees' relationships. Adoptees have said that they know they were holding back themselves in relationships. That they have never felt close to anyone instead felt an emptiness that came from wanting to meet their birth parents.

Adoptees may have come from institutions and have had a lot of caretakers. They can have a rough time relaxing in their additive family. They can continue to be anxious and clingy or uncertain and avoidant. Adoptive parents find it challenging to create close relationships with them. The process may take years, but it is worth it.

Adoptees may find themselves staying in unhealthy relationships or avoiding intimate relationships altogether.

Control Issues

Adoption changes an adoptee's life. From affecting their development, emotional growth, a feeling of responsibility, and self-control. They had no control over the entire adoption process.


Adoptive parents must give children age-appropriate choices and responsibilities throughout their development. It is important to acknowledge the adoptees' feelings on lack of control while helping them take control over their lives in the present. Adoptees often need extra attention paid to skill-building and problem-solving to regain a sense of control in their lives.

Identifying these issues can assist them in doing the necessary work to move into the joy of adoption. There are many gains to be won as adopted people work through these issues. People who have struggled with issues seem to develop inner resources and become deeper human beings.

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