Adoption doesn't end after finalization. It is just beginning and it is a life long process. It feels different at each developmental stage and seems most difficult to manage during adolescence.
There are 6 core issues inherent to adoption that are highlighted below. It's difficult enough to parent a biological child. It can be even more difficult to parent an adopted child, especially one who has experienced trauma. It takes a special skill set to parent an adopted child and it takes an adoption competent therapist to help build that skill set, assist in recognizing how each of the core issues below manifest and strategies to deal with them at each developmental level.
Adoptees mourn the loss of their birth parents, even when they are happy with their adoptive family. Their loss can feel more prominent at various developmental stages, but especially as a teenager or young adult. Adoption loss is ambiguous. There is no closure as with death. Adoptive parents may be mourning the loss of not being able to have children of their own. Birth parents may mourn the loss of the child they didn't get to parent.
Adoptees often feel rejected by their birth parents and subsequently avoid situations where they might be rejected or provoke others to reject them to validate their negative self-perceptions. Adoptive parents often feel rejected as their adopted child desires to know their birth family. Birth parents may experience the fear of rejection if others knew the choice they made. They can also feel rejection from the child they made an adoption plan for if they are ever reunited.
Adoptees often believe there is something intrinsically wrong with them and that they deserved to lose their birth parents, which causes them to feel guilt and shame. Adoptive parents may feel ashamed of issues related to infertility. Birth parents may feel guilt and shame for choosing to continue their life without their child being a part of it.
There is no ritual to grieve the loss of a birth parent, a child lost to adoption or infertility. Suppressed or delayed grief can show up as anger, depression, substance abuse, or aggressive behaviors--just to name a few.
Adoptees often feel incomplete and at a loss regarding their identity because of gaps in their genetic and family history. Adoptive parents may struggle to accept that they have the right to parent their child and that they are indeed the parent. Birth parents may find it difficult to identify what role they now play in their child's life in cases of open adoption or reunification.
Many adoptees, especially those with multiple placements or histories of abuse, have difficulty attaching to members of their new family or to people, period. Early life experiences may affect an adoptee's ability to form deep, meaningful, long lasting relationships, including friendships and intimate relationships.
Adoptees sometimes engage in power struggles with their adoptive parents or other authority figures in an attempt to master the loss of control they experienced in adoption. Oftentimes they never had a voice in the decision. Adoptive parents can struggle with mastering their need to control the adoptee's connection to the birth family which can be based on their fears. Birth parents may be struggling to maintain mastery over feelings of unworthiness, guilt and shame.
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