Question : I am an only child but I was adopted when I was a baby. Earlier this did not make much of a difference to me, my (adoptive) parents were just as good as, or even better, than everyone else’s. But now I’m 17, and have frequent and emotionally draining fights with my parents. I hate all my relatives too. I’ve been through depression and a whole lot of stuff in the last 3 years and though I’ve almost recovered, I still find it so hard to tell my parents anything – to confide in them. I either seem to do things to hurt them, or I hide things because I feel like telling them would hurt them. I don’t even trust them, because I feel they are not “mine”.& Teentalker , 17-year-old
Thank you for writing in – I’m sorry you’re struggling with so many feelings right now. Even though you recognize that your adoptive parents have been loving and good to you, you seem to be wrestling with a sense of belonging… this is natural for many children who are adopted, and although that doesn’t make it better, I just want to reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal. Here are a few active steps you could take:
- Allow yourself to feel conflicted – many adopted teens struggle with guilt and a sense of not-belonging even if their families are loving – this is normal.
- The grieving process from before your parents adopted you may be coming up now (it happens to people at different ages) – find creative outlets for mourning your biological family and allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions if you need to.
- If you are curious about your biological family, even though it seems scary, initiate a conversation with your parents while reassuring them that you are wondering about your origins – they may not be ready for this conversation but would have been expecting it sooner or later.
For people who are adopted, there is a sense of grief over the loss of the birth family, which sometimes isn’t given a chance to mourn over. One of the ways that adopted kids and teens begin to feel more belonging to their adoptive family is by being allowed to acknowledge and grieve for their birth family. Maybe your behavior with your adoptive parents these days is because as you grow into an adult and form your own identity you feel a sense of loss?
A sense of trust is developed when you are a tiny baby, in your first year. All babies are dependent on their primary caregivers, usually their mothers, for food, safety and warmth. If there is a disruption to this nurturance – like if suddenly the mother is no longer present to offer the baby care – it can be perceived by the baby as a tremendous crisis, and a sense of mistrust is formed. In your situation, you were adopted and cared for by your adoptive parents when you were a baby, so you were able to develop trust in a more consistent caregiver, but that trust has been interrupted right now.
The reason I tell you this is because I want you to know that what you’re feeling is not your fault, or your parents’ fault. What do you think is interrupting the trust you placed in your adoptive parents when you were a child? Maybe it’s questions about your birth parents – perhaps an underlying curiosity about who they were. Maybe you feel you don’t want to ask your adoptive parents because you’re afraid that you might hurt them.
Or maybe you’re feeling angry with your birth parents and since they aren’t around, you’re taking out that anger on your adoptive parents. Or maybe it’s all of this, or none of this. But as you continue to ask the question “who am I?” (which is an eternal one for everyone at every age!), maybe you could think about what answers you’re looking for and how they can begin to be answered.I hope that this answer has at least helped you begin to process some of the struggle you’re experiencing.
Hope this helps, if you have any other query do connect online for chat between 11am-8pm or drop us an offline message.
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