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Caring for the Heart of Your Adopted Teen

by Mark Gregston

Just as God has grafted us into His family by choosing to adopt us, there are many wonderful people out there who have grafted a child into their home and heart through adoption, as well.  And if that’s you and your family, thank you for making a difference in the life of a child who needed it.  November is National Adoption Month, and as we celebrate this month of intentional kindness, it’s a good time to remind you that adopting a child requires a lifetime willingness to open your home … and your heart to someone else in need.  It’s the same requirement needed for your natural-born children, but caring for and supporting an adopted child throughout all the stages of their lives often comes with some unique challenges. 

So, if your adoption story has been less than ideal and you’re struggling in your relationship and you’re looking for answers, or, if you’re simply curious about what some of the challenges are that you might face when adopting a child, read on to discover how caring for your adopted child’s heart is the key to a successful relationship. 

Caring for Your Adopted Teen’s Heart 

Everyone wants to feel as though they belong, but often times when a child is adopted, that feeling of belonging, or the thoughts behind the feelings are a little skewed.  Adopted children often feel abandoned, even after they’ve been chosen by a great family. And if your teen is a bit of an outcast, those feelings can be amplified, or exacerbated.  It’s important that parents don’t take a child’s need to question where they came from, personally.  Often times, I’ve worked with parents who feel rejected or upset because their adopted child is wanting to know where they came from—even after they’ve already discussed it, but that’s a normal part of the process and parents should be open to the discussion. 

There’s a huge debate between the “nature vs. nurture” groups, and so as your teen grows and matures, they might be struggling with some of those feelings, as well.  They might be considering how genetics come into play and why they are different from everyone around them.  Don’t discourage their quest for finding the answers.  In a world where value and identity are tied, it’s important for your teen to find the answers they’re searching for, and it’s important that you, mom and dad, are right there beside them as they are struggling through the shifting waters of the teen years. 

And keep in mind, too, that the answers you gave them when they were younger will not work as effectively because their minds are taking shape in different ways as they grow.  Where they used to think in concrete ways, their brains are now shifting into an abstract model, and so, too, must our answers and our responses shift to meet them where they are in the world.  

Adolescence is a time of joy, frustration, heartbreak, and hope for millions of kids every day who know who they are and where they come from.  So, remember that for those kids who have been dealt a different set of cards from the start, the journey is a little more arduous, but the destination is worth it. 

A Few Things to Consider 

Whether your child is adopted or not, it’s important that you take the time to tend to their heart’s emotional needs.  Make time to meet with them one-on-one regularly.  Look for the good in your teen, and remind them of all that they have to offer the world.  By doing this, you’re letting them know that you love them, and they are worthy of love.  That’s important.  Many kids these days question whether they are even worthy to be loved.  So, show them that they are. 

Working through the issues that adoption brings is often a long road that’s different for every kid.  As a parent, it’s important to know that you’re not perfect and neither is your child, but with time and space and a loving willingness to help them process their emotions and feelings, you’re going to be fine. 

And then finally, be sure that you’re really listening to your child.  Affirm that they belong in your family, and then don’t sweat the small stuff.  Remember that twenty years down the road, you’re not going to care if their room was cleaned, or their bed was made—or, at least you shouldn’t care.  What you’re going to remember, and what they will take away from their relationship with you, is your commitment to love them and how you opened up your life and your home to them.  So, invest in your relationship today because that is the thing that is going to last. 


Mom, Dad … God blesses those who choose to give a child a new home and a new family.  And if you’re an adoptive family, may your home be a haven of hope for a child who needs you and may God’s provision for orphans reach down to you, as well.  May He give you the strength to work through any future struggles or difficulties.  The struggles you face right now are going to prepare your adopted teen for a full life, knowing that they are loved and they belong to your family.  And whatever you’re facing today, these trials and struggles will soon pass as they understand the struggles and sacrifice you’ve endured for the sake of their life.  Hey, don’t grow weary in doing good.  For in due time, you’ll reap, if you surely and steadfastly sow into their lives today. 

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.