If you are like most people who decided to adopt, you probably did so with the best of intentions. You looked forward to welcoming the newest member of your family into your loving home, thinking that everything is going to be wonderful. Even in the best case scenario, however, there are some common effects adoption has on a child that may actually cause the child pain.
How do I know this? I’m adopted, and I was raised in a very loving home by the most amazing parents. They did everything possible to make me feel like I was a part of the family and provided me with unconditional love. Even though I had a wonderful childhood in many ways, adoption still left an emotional scar on me.
A few of the most common negative effects adoption has on a child can include:
- Feelings of abandonment
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty forming emotional attachments
- Identity issues
- Trauma of separation from their natural parents
Sometimes, these effects are noticeable in childhood, however many times, as in my case, they impact the adoptee on a subconscious level and don’t manifest outwardly for years.
As a child, I always felt a little “different” but it wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that I began to realize just how much I had been affected by adoption.
My parents had always been supportive, open and honest with me about being adopted. They made every effort to help me develop into a strong, independent and confident woman. However, I still struggled with low self-esteem and deep seated feelings of abandonment, as well as difficulty forming healthy emotional attachments in relationships.
Mine was a closed adoption, so I didn’t know why my natural mother had given me away. I didn’t know my heritage or family medical history.
All of the unknowns can create negative effects of adoption on a child. They can lead to feelings of insecurity and isolation, leaving an adopted child wondering, “Who am I, really?”
In my case, I was fortunate enough to find my natural mother when I was 24 years old. I was able to get answers to many of the questions I had since childhood, which was helpful.
The same may be true in the case of open adoption today, where the child has access to natural parents and information regarding heritage and family medical history.
Even so, there is often an emotional void that can develop which still needs to be filled and healed. It’s best to begin that process as early in life as possible.
So, what are some ways to mitigate the negative effects adoption has on a child?
Always be honest with the child about the fact that they are adopted.
This is always a double-edged sword. If you, as adoptive parents don’t tell the child they are adopted and they find out years later, the adoptee will be resentful, feel betrayed and also feel like their entire life has been a lie. On the other hand, when a child knows they are adopted, it sets them up for feeling “different,” abandoned, and not good enough, but at least they know the truth.
Whether you tell your child they are adopted or not, they are going to need support.
When I was growing up, I was the only adoptee that I knew until I got into high school. I felt lonely even though I had a great family. That was in the 1970’s and I don’t know what kind of support services, if any, were available at that time.
Today, there are adoption support groups for children and teens. These groups can give an adopted child a sense of community and familiarity and are a great way to start the healing process. I would highly suggest finding such a support group for your adopted child.
Tell your adopted child that you “chose” to adopt, not that you “chose” them.
A lot of adoptive parents tell their adopted child that they are special because they were “chosen.”
Let’s face it. Unless you adopted a child from an orphanage, an arranged open adoption or through foster care, you didn’t get to “choose” the specific baby you adopted. Instead, you ended up with the next available child on the list, plain and simple.
Once a child is old enough to understand adoption and how it works, they realize that they could have been adopted by anyone who has the financial means for the process. Even though your child was adopted with the purest of intentions, the negative effect of adoption in this case is that your child may end up feeling like a commodity.
So, one way to reword it is for you, as adoptive parents, to say something like this to your child. “We chose to open our hearts and our home to adoption because we have extra love to share. We are lucky to have you in our lives, as part of our family.”
If you are a parent with an adopted child who is struggling with this idea, you might want to pick up the book Radical Forgiveness.
I discovered it about 15 years ago and it changed my perception of and belief about adoption. No longer do I see adoption as a crap shoot. Instead, I view it as a decision made on a soul level. I now believe that I chose to come into this world as an adoptee, and to the family by whom I was raised. This has given me a sense of peace and perhaps this concept can do the same for your adopted child.
Don’t expect your adopted child to feel grateful for having been adopted.
Saying that an adoptee should feel grateful for being adopted can be an inflammatory statement.
It may be true that in some or even most cases, you, as adoptive parents can offer the child a better environment and perhaps a better life. Still, adoption will almost always leave the child wondering, “what if,” and thinking that life may have been better with their natural family.
Living in a world of wondering what life with the natural family could have been like can lead to depression. It’s important to understand that the child is a victim of circumstance.
Adoption was not their choice, whether it’s a better situation for them or not. Therefore, they may not feel grateful and may resent hearing that they should feel that way.
Acknowledge the fact that your adopted child is either consciously or subconsciously grieving the loss of their natural family.
Adoption is loss for the adoptee. They have lost the bond with their natural parents and that is a type death. Therefore, the grieving process is normal and the child’s feelings should be validated.
This may be difficult for adoptive parents. However, it is critical that the child’s grieving process not be dismissed.
Honor those feelings and the process. You may even consider professional counseling or coaching to assist your adopted child through the grieving stages.
Build your adopted child’s self-esteem by empowering them and teaching them that they are worthy of all good things.
All children can benefit from being empowered. Help them realize that they are capable and worthy and they are here for a divine reason and purpose which only they can bring to the world.
One way to begin this process is through programs like I Believe in Me by Rebecca Psigoda. This program empowers children with the knowledge that they are unique, divine and have the ability to create and live a wonderful life.
Provide your adopted child with resources to release trauma.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, adoption is trauma.
Another way to mitigate the negative effects adoption has on a child is by utilizing tools such as life coaching and hypnosis to release trauma and assist the child in moving forward with confidence and inner peace.
There is no blame here. I personally feel that adoption is a good thing. However there are effects adoption has on a child that can have a negative impact. There is no getting around it. Therefore, we must do everything we can to help mitigate those effects.
As an adoptee, I had an amazing childhood, and yet, I experienced some negative effects of adoption. I had to figure out how to heal on my own. And now I help others heal. If you are an adoptive parent with a child who is struggling, contact me to schedule a private consultation.