I had been working with adoptive parents, adoptees and families for several years. Over time, I became aware of certain emerging themes that concerned me, the first being this – many adult adoptees I worked with were completely unprepared for young adulthood.
Now, you might be thinking, of course those are the clients I would see as a psychotherapist, right? Yes, and no. You might also be thinking about the cultural shift that is happening. Young adulthood is the new adolescence, right? Yes, and no.
Then I started to see a few more things. I saw that many adoptive parents were basing their mindset, their decisions, judgment calls with their teen on the guidance and advice they received from their agency, therapist, friends, etc. And, that guidance was centered around a few key themes – safety, security, love and belonging, trust, etc. What I was seeing was that when adoptive parents tried to respond in the same way that they had been for years, it no longer provided the comfort, reassurance and connection that it might have before. Now, it seemed to make things worse.
Then, it came to light via research that adoptees (ages 11-22) are four times more likely to attempt suicide.
Regardless of your feelings about adoption, it’s a vulnerable position to be in to differ from the mainstream in some way. But, what does this mean for adoptive parents? What does your adopted teen need from you?