This information has been directly taken from Child Welfare Information Gateway
Now that you have adopted a child and life is beginning to settle down, you may find your thoughts moving to the future. When shall I tell my child that s/he is adopted? How will s/he feel about it? At what point will s/he want more information? What will s/he want to know from me? How can I help my child feel comfortable about being adopted?
Whether children are adopted as infants or when they are older, whether they are healthy or have physical or psychological problems, their adoption is bound to influence their development. You need to understand how and why.
Learning about the developmental stages of children and what can be expected in each stage is important to all new parents. When your child has been adopted, there are additional considerations. In these pages, we will be looking at specific issues—separation, loss, anger, grief, and identity—and show how they are expressed as your adopted child grows up. Some of these issues will be obvious in all stages of development; others surface at specific times. The more thoroughly you can understand how your child behaves and why, the more likely it is that you can be supportive and help your child to grow up with healthy self-esteem and the knowledge that s/he is loved.
While the stages described below correspond generally to a child's chronological age, your child's development may vary significantly. Some children progress more quickly from one stage to another; others may continue certain behaviors long past the time you would have expected. Still others may be substantially delayed in entering and moving through new stages. Many characteristics of adolescence, for instance, may not even appear until your child's twenties and may persist until your child's identity has formed.
- 1 Ages and Stages
- 1.1 Adoption Parenting: Newborn and Infant
- 1.2 Adoption Parenting: Toddler
- 1.3 Adoption Parenting: Preschool
- 1.4 Adoption Parenting: Grade School
- 1.5 Adoption Parenting: Preteen
- 1.6 Adoption Parenting: Teenage Years
- 1.6.1 Understanding Teenage Development and the Impact of Adoption
- 1.6.2 Communicating with Your Teenager About Adoption
- 1.6.3 Helping You Teenager Communicate with Others About Adoption
- 1.6.4 Disciplining Effectively
- 1.6.5 Preparing Your Teenager for Adulthood
- 1.6.6 Seeking Help for Mental Concerns
- 1.7 Adoption Parenting: Young Adults
- 2 Additional Information About Adoption Parenting
Ages and Stages
The primary task of a baby is to develop a sense of trust in the world and come to view it as a place that is predictable and reliable.
Toddlers continue the attachment and separation cycle in more sophisticated ways in the second year.
It is important to understand the typical developmental tasks and needs of preschoolers, as well as how adoption-related experiences may affect your child.
Parents who project an attitude of acceptance and comfort with adoption are better able to help their children explore their own feelings and fears.
The purpose of discipline is to teach, re-teach, and assist children in developing their own internal controls.
School-aged children go through many significant developmental changes. It is important for parents to understand the typical tasks and needs of school-aged children as well as how adoption-related experiences may affect children.
Parents who feel good about adoption, are comfortable talking about it, and can openly acknowledge their child’s feelings are best able to help their children do the same.
The purpose of discipline is to teach children acceptable behavior and how to develop their own internal controls. Discipline should take into account your child’s abilities, learning styles, and family history.
Adoptive families, like other families, sometimes need help to address mental health concerns. Sadness, anger, and behavior challenges are normal as children in grade school learn more about their family histories and come to terms with adoption.
If your child has had several homes before yours, there is often a brief honeymoon period where s/he will try to be perfect to ensure your love. But soon the sense of loss, hurt, and anger surfaces.
Thirteen- to nineteen-year-olds experience rapid physical and hormonal growth.
Adopted teenagers wonder about their birth families and think about adoption more than most parents realize. They need parents who are comfortable talking about adoption, who aren’t threatened or hurt by the discussion, and who can help answer their questions and discover information about their pasts.
As teenagers assert their emerging identities and independence, while also navigating peer pressures, they frequently will test the boundaries of family rules.
An important part of parenting teenagers is creating the conditions in which they can master adult tasks and take on greater independence.
For many adopted persons, growing up in an adoptive family involves some additional complications and challenges.
Adopted persons may deal with a range of issues at different points in their lives.
Additional Information About Adoption Parenting
Openness in Adoption
Open adoption allows adoptive parents, and often the adopted child, to interact with the child’s birth parents. Openness can vary greatly from family to family and may change over time. Open adoption is becoming increasingly common, in part due to a growing recognition of the potential benefits of allowing an adopted child or youth to establish or maintain connections with his or her birth family. To support adoptive families in considering and maintaining open adoption, this information describes various levels of openness, potential benefits, important considerations, and tips for building and strengthening open relationships.1
- What is Open Adoption?
- Trends Toward Increasing Openness
- Benefits of Open Adoption
- Deciding Whether Open Adoption Is Right for Your Family
- Building and Maintaining Relationships With Your Child’s Birth Family
- Using Social Media for Contact With Birth Families
- Resources for More Information About Open Adoption
Finding and Using Postadoption Services
It is common for adoptive families to need support and services after adoption. Postadoption services can help families with a wide range of issues. They are available for everything from learning how to explain adoption to a preschooler, to helping a child who experienced early childhood abuse, to supporting an adopted teen’s search for identity. Experience with adoptive families has shown that all family members can benefit from some type of postadoption support. Families of children who have experienced trauma, neglect, abuse, out-of- home care, or institutionalization may require more intensive services.
- Postadoption Issues That Adoptive Families Often Encounter
- Changing Needs for Support at Different Ages and Developmental Stages
- Types of Postadoption Services
- Organizations That Provide Services
- Finding Postadoption Services and Additional Resources
- Paying for Postadoption Services
- Advocating for Postadoption Services’'
- Conclusion and Additional Resources
Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Parents
Adoptive parenthood, like other types of parenthood, can bring tremendous joy—and a sizable amount of stress. This factsheet explores some of the emotional ups and downs that adoptive parents may experience as they approach the decision to adopt, during the adoptive process, and, most importantly, after the adoption.
- Why Adopt?
- Managing the Adoption Process
- Impact of (Adoptive) Parenting
- Issues Related to the Type of Adoption or Age of Child
- Conclusion and Additional Resources
If you’re a foster parent adopting a child, children, or youth currently in your care, you’ll need to help your child make the emotional adjustment to being an adopted child. While you may appreciate the difference in the child’s role within your family, children and youth may not clearly comprehend the difference between being a foster child versus being an adopted child in the same family. There are specific steps you can take to help children understand these changes.
Visit Special Needs to find out more about physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway. A service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1 While this information includes information primarily for adoptive parents, it also may be of interest to birth parents. Pregnant women thinking about placing their child for adoption also may be interested in Open Adoption: Could Open Adoption Be the Best Choice for You and Your Baby? available from https://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/birth/for/