In my work with adoptive families, I strive to help adoptees to feel empowered and optimistic about their future and connected for the long haul. But, there’s something else.
What does that mean in my work with adoptees? I mean that they’re not trying to be something or someone they’re not. You might wonder, isn’t this everyone’s challenge? Is this really an adoption issue?
Yes, it’s everyone’s challenge, but for adopted teens, it’s huge. As you may know, I conceptualize the adoption story as one of survival. Adoptees survived difficult beginnings. They didn’t have the undying protection and care that they needed and deserved. Like many with risky lives, adopted teens have talked with me about being “lucky” to have survived, or to have had a second chance at a life and a family. Each adoptee is different in the way that they respond, based on countless factors, of course. But, some go into “strategy” mode without even realizing it.
The strategy is – if I can be liked by everyone, I’m less likely to be alone, abandoned and at risk, again. If I can be perfect in school and at home, then it was be perfectly clear to all how valuable and deserving I am of this life, despite my rocky beginnings/background/genetic predisposition.
How is this especially relevant to adopted teens?
To be authentic, it helps to know yourself! That’s easier said than done, especially for adopted teens. They’re not just facing who they are, but also who they might be in the future. What is their potential. Who do they want to be. Is that even possible or realistic?
Sometimes adoptees pretend that they have no needs, that they’re so easy to love, to be with. Having needs feels demanding, entitled. When, really, it’s just human!
It can be sort of subtle! I remember doing a phone consultation with a young adult adoptee. She talked about how she constantly needs to please everybody and be what she believes that they need her to be. Then she said, “I’m doing it right now!”
Authenticity. It’s elusive, but possible, and a great goal for adoptees to explore. “Is this really what I’m feeling? Am I telling them what I actually think, or what I think they want to hear? Am I trying to be the perfect girlfriend/boyfriend and not make waves, when really, I’m unhappy?”
Being authentic is empowering.