7 Mistakes Even the Best Parents Can Make in Adoption

We all try to be our best for our children. Here are some tips to help.

Tom Andriola May 16, 2015


Parenting is difficult, regardless of whether it’s in a biological family or an adoptive family. But for adoptive parents, there are often sensitivities that can make it a little bit more complicated.

Personally, I think I have had the good fortune of having parents who loved and cared for me in a way that helped instill strong values within me and led to the successful adult I consider myself to be now. Still, there are things I wish my parents had known—things I wish all adoptive parents knew—that might have resulted in fewer hardships and difficulties for me as a child.

Adopting More Children May Not be Easy
1. Adopting More Children May Not be Easy

My parents doted over me, so much so that they wanted to adopt other children, which they did. Little did they know that when my two older brothers came into the household, life would become overwhelmingly chaotic, and there was no turning back.

Adopting Older Children May Come with Unanticipated Challenges
2. Adopting Older Children May Come with Unanticipated Challenges

While I was adopted at three months old, my two brothers were four and six years old when they came into the house. Unfortunately, it’s not clear what they encountered in their foster home, because one ended up sexually abusing me growing up, and the other had such behavioral trouble that he was out of the house and in an alternative residential setting outside our home by the time he was fourteen. My parents were not equipped to deal with these issues, and they were given no warnings about potential complications or how to deal with them should they arise.

Not Telling Your Child What You Know About Their Biological Family Can Result in Broken Trust
3. Not Telling Your Child What You Know About Their Biological Family Can Result in Broken Trust

I am happy to say that my parents always told me that I was adopted and answered any questions that I ever asked about it. However, I know that’s not true for everyone. I have known many adoptees who were never told they were adopted at all. Many have somehow found out, but their parents still hide the truth from them. I can’t imagine having to endure such secrecy about my own life, especially from those who are supposed to care about me the most.

Be Sensitive to the Loss Your Child May Feel
4. Be Sensitive to the Loss Your Child May Feel

Being placed for adoption is traumatic for many adoptees, and can result in a void that cannot be replaced. While adoptive parents are the ones who change the diapers, help with schoolwork, teach right from wrong, and stand proud at soccer games, it is natural for an adoptee to feel a sense of loss about having been placed for adoption. It is can be more helpful to try to understand that and empathize with your son or daughter about it than to become upset by it.

Telling Your Child You Chose Them Can Be Misleading
5. Telling Your Child You Chose Them Can Be Misleading

Let’s face it. Most parents who adopt didn’t “choose” anyone. Many parents who adopt are doing so because they have been unable to conceive a child on their own, and that’s okay. Even those who are adopting because it is their true desire to do so are placed in a certain set of circumstances based on timing, location of residence, and the agency pursuing the adoption for them. Regardless of intent, most adoptees know the deal, and saying to them that they were chosen may make them feel more like a commodity than a human being.

Birthdays Can Be Difficult for an Adoptee
6. Birthdays Can Be Difficult for an Adoptee

As an adoptee, my birthday has always been bittersweet. While I am grateful to have the life I have been given, my birthday is not strictly a time for celebration, for there is also great loss associated with it. Take the cues from your son or daughter about how they would like to celebrate their birthday, if at all. Be sure to empathize with them about the conflicting feelings they may have about it.

Let Them Search and Support Them
7. Let Them Search and Support Them

In all likelihood, your adoptive son or daughter will be curious about his or her biological roots, and that’s completely normal. If and when they decide they want to conduct a search, be supportive. Remember that it isn’t about you. While it may feel awkward and you may wonder if you have done anything wrong to make them want to search, it is likely that they feel awkward and sensitive about it too. They are not doing it to “replace” their family, but to understand where they come from.

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Tom Andriola

Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.

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