Forming an identity is not as simple as it seems. Think back to when you were forming yours. Most likely there were a lot of starts and stops. You probably “tried on” a few personas, to see how they “fit.” You were seeking and defining your values, beliefs, and expectations of yourself and others.
In normal identity development babies, toddlers, young children, tweens, and teens need to simultaneously bond with and also assert independence from their parents. And as the adolescent begins to emerge, somewhere between six and eleven, they must have established a secure sense of belonging within their family so that they can begin the process of amassing the necessary knowledge and skills for independence. It is during this process that many parents observe their child demonstrating independence by making decisions or displaying behavior they may or many not agree with.
Identity formation is also the time when disagreements between kids and their parents can escalate. (This has happened within mine.) Although kids want more independence they are unsure of just how much they are ready for. Parents want their child to move towards being more independent, but are reluctant to give up control.
Parents and teens are somewhat at odds because teens are not sure who they are or will be and parents are concerned about what choices their kids will make and what they might become. After all, parents have already traveled that road. (But parents remember this: your child will let you know, in some way, that you don’t know anything…)
The above is a very general and not all-inclusive overview of the push and pull that occurs between parents and their teens. Raising tweens and teens is hard work.
Consider the tween/teen who has been adopted and the possible additional issues that can complicate or magnify the identity formation process:
- The feeling of not belonging
- The fear of rejection
- The need for control
- The fear of abandonment
- The need to connect with their past
Don’t be frightened, but aware. Build your knowledge about adoption issues and how they can affect your child. Be open, approachable and talk with your child. Ideas for you:
- Read (many fine books and materials are available)
- Take classes (there are two Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond offered this fall)
- Attend workshops
- Find support with other adoptive parents who are going through or have raised their kids
- Talk to adult adoptees and ask them how they felt when they were a tween and teen
Just as there is no one way to raise a child there is no one way to parent the child who has been adopted. There are common denominators, yes, but every child and parent has a unique temperament, way of relating to others, perspective, life experience, personality, patience, understand, etc.
Parents: Ask yourself, what works for you and your child? Where do you instinctively feel you can find support or the knowledge to parent your adopted child?