Parents often dread the teen years, fearing rebellion, challenges, and hormones. Maybe it’s time to “flip the script” and look at this time in your adopted child’s life as an opportunity. Yeah, I know, easier said than done! Check out these tips to make talking about adoption easier.
Tips for Talking with Tweens and Teens About Adoption
1. Toss the Conversational Ball
Even if your child does not bring up the topic of adoption or birth parents, periodically throw out a conversation starter. Let him decide whether to catch it and talk or to ignore it and let it drop.
2. Get Side-By-Side
Children are often more open to talking about complicated topics when they are not facing their parents. Car rides from soccer practice or giving a back rub at lights out can be some of the best opportunities for discussing any emotionally-laden topic, such as adoption or birth parents.
3. Take the Teachable Moments
Look for opportunities in the media, movies, TV where the subject of adoption comes up naturally to use as conversation starters with your adolescent.
4. Normalize The Curiosity
Let your child know that it is normal to wonder about birth parents and to wish for more information or contact. Through your action and your words, let your child know that you are not threatened by their curiosity or desire for connection and that you are available to talk at any time.
5. Play “Where Does This Come From?” *
You will label three baskets: From Birth Family, From Our Family, From Myself. On several slips of paper, write a variety of personal traits your kids possess. Include features like hair color, musical ability, favorite desserts, “salty or sweet,” being a lover of bad puns, extroversion/introversion, hating math, competitiveness, ADHD, intelligence, etc.
Each person then draws a piece of paper out of the pile and reads it aloud. He has to place it in the basket that he thinks best describes from where that trait comes. Disagreements and discussions are not only allowed, but they are also encouraged. This is a great way to open up our thoughts about how we became the people we are.
After you play this game, listen as a family to this Creating a Family interview. The guests are also authors of some pretty fascinating research on how our specific traits come from our genes or our environment.
6. Leave School at School
By the time your child is a teen, parental pressure to perform well at school is not effective. It is fair to point out the natural consequences of low grades, and it is reasonable to expect them to go to school. But their academic performance is between them and the school. Grades are not worth damaging your relationship over.
7. Make A Plan for Building Connection
Actively work on strengthening your relationship with your tween and teen. Play games together and have fun on a regular schedule. Read our post, Best Parenting Advice EVER (and It’s Not What You Think).
*Credit for this game goes to Sean Delehant, a therapist and program director with the Center for Adoption Support and Education. He was a guest on the Creating a Family show on “How to Talk with Tweens and Teens about Adoption.”