Parenting Your Adopted Teen

teenager and mom

People often praise foster parents for their acts of love. They say that adoption is one of the most selfless things a person can do. Raising and providing for a child’s needs is every parent’s duty. But to perform the same function towards a child that wasn’t yours to care for in the first place is admirable.

The adjustment period of an adopted baby is relatively easier than that of a teenager. This is because a baby holds no memories and past trauma that they will recall in the future. This is not to say that one is more deserving to be adopted than the other. It helps to know what to expect so you can gain insight into what to do.

Your role as a parent is to create a safe space for your child to grow and be. Space for them to express their thoughts, needs, and feelings. A space for open communication.

In a time of great adjustments for both yourself and the child, it’s important to acquaint yourself with issues your soon-to-be son or daughter might face as they go through their teens. This is to give you better insight into how you can help and be there for them in this transition.


Parenting a self-aware teenager can be a challenge. They came into your home, bringing with them their memories and relationship traumas.

When they were young, they weren’t provided the stability one needs for healthy development. Dr. Steven Nickman, author of the article Losses in Adoption: The Need for Dialogue, suggested in an article that a sense of stability reassures the child that history will not repeat itself.

There may be times when you struggle to connect with them or understand what they need at the moment, and that’s normal. The truth is, sometimes they might not even understand what they’re feeling. This could be a tell-tale sign of neglect. Being neglected in the past can cause one to be guarded and skeptical of others. This requires a lot of patience and reassurance on your side. It helps to express love and understanding early on, even in the smallest of ways. If you worry that they might not reciprocate, know that they see you trying.


While in their teens, the child begins to explore their identity. What hobbies they like, which extracurriculars they’re interested in, or what kind of friends they want to make. As the child starts their journey to self-discovery, a part of it is becoming self-reliant and independent from their family. But having already experienced loss at a young age makes this psychosocial stage from an adoptee’s perspective complicated. There’s a lot more going on for them. They’re adjusting to a new home, new school, and new people. But in time, they’ll get the hang of it.

It’s almost inevitable that your child will want to seek their biological parents or learn more about their own heritage. Parents’ willingness to accept this helps the child adjust to their situation. With compassion and understanding, your child will realize who they are in time.
smiling teen

Mental Health

It’s expected that trauma, abandonment, neglect, and abuse take their toll on mental health. A child should be protected and nurtured, not exposed to these things.

Past adversities and traumatic experiences can result in mental health problems in the future, and that’s true for everyone. But compared to non-adopted peers, adopted individuals are more likely to develop psychosocial hurdles, from adjustment problems to psychopathology. The latter’s risk might be a result of pre-adoption circumstances (abuse, neglect, prolonged institutionalization, etc.) or post-adoption circumstances (i.e., racial discrimination for internationally adopted children).

One of the things that make up for the past is forming child-parent attachment towards one another. But if you notice that your child is still having a hard time, consider seeing a specialist.

Adoption is a long and complicated process. You could do everything right but still be subjected to postponed appointments, delayed feedback, and bureaucratic processes. There’s a lot to prepare, such as important documents, training classes, and a family lawyer. But after you welcome your kid into your home, it’s finally time to learn how to be a parent.

To choose to go through processes and preparations to care for a child that the world has failed will never be overlooked. At the end of the day, a child is just a child. No matter what age. They need just as much love, nurturance, and, most of all, compassion as anyone else.

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