D. Mittman is a guest blogger and parent that graciously has offered to share his knowledge, experience and insight as a father with adopted teens. This is the first of a three part post.
Part One: Adoption and the Troubled Teen
Part Two: Families With Adopted Teens May Feel A Loss
Part Three: Issues To Address For Families With Adopted Teens
Adoption and the “Troubled Teen”
I write this as a father of two children who are adopted. Both my wife and I love them as much as we love life itself. At one time one of our children was “lost”. Not defiant, seemingly not very angry (and not angry at his parents), always loving to us but not growing or maturing, as he should have. He was getting in his own way, experimenting with drugs and sex. His friends were worried about him. We also felt that in his own way this was a cry for help. We provided that help by sending him to a wonderful wilderness program and an even better school in Utah for his senior year of high school.
What I will describe in the next three blog posts is a compilation of what my wife and I as well as other parents have learned about adoption and teens, especially “troubled teens”. I know it does not apply to all adopted teens or even to all “troubled teens” but it is worth your consideration if you formed your family through adoption or if you know people who have.
Adoption is far from being a definitive cause of “troubled teens”. In fact, most troubled teens are not adopted. Most adopted children, are not “troubled teens”. So why are we discussing adoption on this blog? Because some percentage of adopted teens are troubled and it seems a higher percentage than it should be.While adopted teens account for a small segment of the general population, it seems they may account for a greater percentage of teens in trouble. Why? No one is really sure. Even the experts may not agree. Those who do not know better could presume it’s the fault of everything from bad parenting to bad children. Not likely either way. The truth is that this behavior is multifactorial and that many of these factors have yet to be studied or fully understood
Adopiton and The First Possibility
What effect does the separation of a newborn from their biological mother have on the child? No one really knows. There are people who suggest that this separation is the first trauma felt by some adopted children. That these newborns somehow know their biological mother’s smell and heartbeat and they know that leaving it is somehow a loss. One theory is that from this loss experience there may be gaps or holes in their persona they have to fill.That some of these children wonder more than others about their biological mothers, how they are and if they are loved. Do they miss their biological child? Many experts feel that adoption is a trauma that needs to examined by professionals in a new way so that those children, teens and even adults that feel this way can be treated effectively and that this loss needs to be researched just as other traumas are. It would seem we could unleash a few hundred psychologists into wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding schools and RTCs to begin the process. Even to see if a higher percentages of the adopted kids in these programs felt a loss compared to adopted children not in these programs.
Behaviors and Genetics
There is also the undeniable fact of genetics. Is behavior genetic? We know that in many cases behavioral disorders are and run from generation to generation. Panic Disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD and many other disorders have a familial component. Could this also be true for impulsivity, which seems to be a problem for many of these teens?Would it be unusual to surmise that people who found themselves in situations where they were pregnant and unable to care for the children that would result from that pregnancy were also too impulsive? Did they understand or worry about the consequences? My guess is that many of these people are fine, moral, upstanding, wonderful people who either had been put in a situation they could not handle or put themselves in the situation by having problems with impulsivity or non-consequential behavior. Do people who are too impulsive have children who might have problems with impulsivity, especially in teens? Some believe this is a genuine consideration worth looking into. Is anger learned, genetic or a bit of both? How about rebellious behavior? We don’t know but some would consider genetics a cause of some of the behavioral problems that we see in adopted teens.
Then there are the usual questions that tend to magnify themselves in all teens but more in adopted ones. “Who am I, “where did I come from” and “what is my life about” are hard questions that all teens grapple with. These clearly are more difficult for adopted children. “Why do I look different than the rest of my family”? “Why am I good in music when the rest of my family is tone deaf”? “Why can’t I catch a football like Dad wants me to”? Or even more interesting, “why can I catch it better than Dad”? Many of these are questions that come along with adoption, no question about it. They are hard to answer at 13, or 16 or even at 20.
Tomorrow Part Two: Families With Adopted Teens May Feel A Loss
If you have been adopted or have adopted children please comment with your experiences and the effects it has had on your life.
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