#32 – Those teen years!

October 4, 2011 at 10:20 am | Posted in adoption issues, Adoptive parenting do's, Differences -adopted child and biological child, Raising the adopted child | Leave a comment
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I have a friend who is currently dealing with a difficult teen-age son.  Sound familiar to anyone?  She says he is rude, inconsiderate, and thinks only of himself.  This, too, may be all too familiar.

This was talked about in issue #14, but it is such a big issue that it can be discussed a little more.  Unfortunately, this awful “phase” can go on for years.  I wish all those who go through these agonizing years could get a glimpse of what their relationship with their child will be like in 10 years time.  I think they would be pleasantly surprised to find that their relationship is closer and more harmonious than ever.  In place of their current difficult teen they probably would see a thoughtful, loving, appreciative young adult.  If they could envision this, parents would throttle back a little now and help their teen get through this.  Often, parents are too angry and resentful to be of much help to their child.

Usually, a teen-ager who is seemingly resistant to family ways is a teen-ager who is scared to leave his family.  In some families this attitude change seems to happen overnight.  An otherwise pleasant child turns into an “enemy of the family” and no one knows why.  Even the child isn’t very aware of why he feels so awful and takes it out on his family.

What many of us adoptive parents aren’t aware of is how hard our children work to be like us to fit into our family.  It’s human nature to want to belong.  We are the only family they know.  They want to belong to us.  On a very deep level they know this union is artificial.  Their friends automatically belong to their respective biological families and they don’t have to work at it at all.  It comes naturally with their birth.  The adopted child doesn’t inherit this natural link.

A time comes when leaving the nest is out there, it’s talked about, it will be real one day.  Now the teen sees that a reversal of efforts needs to take place.  Instead of working to conform to family ways, the adopted teen is expected to go out on his own and make his own way.

This can be daunting to a young person who perhaps has submerged his own personality and inclinations in order to feel like a member of his adoptive family.  He feels he is superficial.  Often, he’s never developed his depth, his real talents and tendencies.  He feels hollow and artificial and is scared he may not make it out in the big wide world because he doesn’t know who he truly is.

So – what does he do?  He takes it out on his family with whom he’s had a (hopefully) wonderful relationship his whole life.  By refuting the family values he’s been comfortable with as a child, he thinks he’ll develop himself by himself.  But, how does he do it?  Often, he doesn’t know how.  He just knows the first step is to turn away from all that he has been taught his whole life.  From then on, it’s trial, and often, a lot of error.

What can we do during these years?  Love even more – as tough as it is to love the often sullen and surly teen in your home.  At this point he needs more support than ever.  He won’t admit it, of course, but he needs to know that no matter what happens when he gets into the world, you will always love him and appreciate him.  Agree with him that it can be frightening to face the world, and he may make mistakes, but he will always have your arms to fall back into.  Whatever happens, he is your child. Tell him this.  This posture will help to take you through the sometimes hellish years.  They are hard on everyone, but oh, if you stick it out, what’s on the other side can be ever so rewarding.


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