1. A listening ear
The simplest thing a parent can do for their teenager is be a good listener. Your teen will be processing a lot about his/her identity, especially as an adoptee. It will be so valuable for the parent-child relationship if the parent is skilled at having a listening ear, without necessarily giving advice. Perhaps your adoptee will ask you for your advice, but if not, let him process and form his own thoughts about his unique situation.
2. The freedom to wonder
There will be times when an adoptee just wants to think out loud. Don’t stifle your adoptee’s wonder about her birth family. There are so many “what if” scenarios that it’s important for the adoptee to have the chance to sift through all of them. Don’t shut down an idea because you think it sounds crazy. Let the dreams and “could be”s flow.
3. Understanding that birthdays might be difficult
When I was growing up, birthdays were as exciting to me as they would be to any other kid. But as a teen, I began to piece together exactly what my birthday meant to two people out there. It was a day of joy and extreme heartache. My heart started to hurt for my birth family; for their loss and for mine.
4. Acknowledgment of their differences
I hate to point out the obvious, but it is likely that you and your adoptee are not biologically related. And that is totally okay! Acknowledge your differences and love him. Your child is of a different genetic make up, and he will appreciate your appreciation of his roots. He might even appreciate where he came from a little bit more when they see that you do, too. Your family is unique, and loving your differences will teach your teen to love himself no matter what.
5. Positive words about birth parents, regardless of the background story
Your adoptee needs to make her own judgments about her biological family. Period. Her birth parents’ backgrounds may include addiction or legal trouble, but it is important that you inform the adoptee of those facts when it is age appropriate. Instead of talking about all the bad decisions that were made, highlight the good that came out of it: You have your child, and your child has you. Her birth parents chose life. In some cases, maybe they chose adoption. In others, they are still fighting to get it right, and in the meantime you are there to love them through it. Remember that it’s not your job to point out flaws, but it is your job to protect and love.
6. Understanding that just because they ask questions about their birth family doesn’t mean they’re not loyal
If nothing else sticks with you from this article, make it a point to remember this one. An adoptee is bound to wonder about his birth family, some more than others. When your teen (or maybe even pre-teen!) starts asking you about his birth family, do not be offended. He is not rejecting you; rather he is coming to you about what is heaviest on his heart and mind. Without even realizing it, your adoptee is giving you a chance to be an ally. Instead of feeling put down, rise up to the occasion, take a spoonful of humility, and love him through it.