You are adopting a teen and have so many plans for their futures! You see the amazing child that has been overlooked or dismissed and you want to be the one to help them shine! After all, time is short before your child turns 18, right? You have to hurry to get them “caught up” to their peers and help them acclimate to this American lifestyle.
Sound familiar to what you hear, think, and worry about?
Not so fast. Based on our own experiences with adopting teens, nearly everything about how to approach them is counter-intuitive.
First, 18 years old is not the “end” of parenting. Parenting is a lifetime journey and especially when we get a later start at getting to parent our children.
There are many things to celebrate -- your long-awaited new child is HOME!! But there can be many challenges for the new parents, siblings, and especially the newly adopted teenager.
The first six months can be the hardest and THIS IS NORMAL! Just as with new parents bringing home a newborn baby, there are a range of emotions and changes involved in this monumental shift in your household. Some new adoptive parents even experience some depression similar to that of post-partum faced by moms who have recently given birth.
The siblings in the home prior to this teen adoption may have difficulty adapting to the new dynamic in their home. Mom and dad are now preoccupied with their new sibling and many past household rules and norms may seem to be more flexible for the new brother or sister than for them. This seems unfair and is hard to swallow at times for ANY age child.
Your new teenager is going through an immense amount of stress and adjustment in these first six months.
So what can you do to help this transition for everyone?
What about integrating my child into their world around them for friends and being a typical teen?
“I have friends who have adopted and my story feels nothing like what I expected after watching their experience."
What caught you most off guard in your adoption story?
"I had no clue how tired...physically and emotionally I would be after adopting a teen. We went from 4 to 5 children and yet my newly adopted, oldest child needed the most attention. In retrospect, you can verbally affirm your knowledge of what the first year will bring, but you NEVER truly understand until you are thrown into it. There were many good moments, but many hard ones."
The goal is not about making sure your new child obeys all your rules, but rather bonds emotionally. Creating “yes” moments is key and allowing your child to have a voice.
"Our son complained a lot, but he was not unhappy as much as he was scared to let go and trust. He had a chronic fear of being taken back to his home country. This fear reared its ugly head in how he interacted with our family. This process was not overnight - it took many months of slowly chipping away at it. Some days it felt like one step forward, three steps backward. But in time, there was progress and growth for all of us."
Teen adoption is not widely understood. It is a rare occurrence and so many people are caught off-guard - caught between their expectations and their reality. It is incredibly special getting to see the growth and progress of these children who were statistically deemed “not adoptable” (by the statistics of ages that people adopt). Welcome to the club and know that no matter how your story unfolds and progresses, you are NOT alone!
A special thank you to our P143 volunteer, Andrea, for sharing your story and insight.