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Seeing Adoption from Your Teen’s Perspective

#579 – Student Story: Anna

with host Mark Gregston

You can tell your adopted children they’re loved and chosen. Ultimately, adoption leaves many kids grieving a loss they don’t fully understand.

This weekend on Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston helps adoptive parents see adoption from their teen’s perspective.

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Adopted Children and Sexual Promiscuity

Already feeling confusion about their identity and validity, adopted teens are doubly impacted by growing feelings of abandonment by their birth parents.  It can lead them to inappropriately attach themselves to another person sexually.

There are several catalysts for sexual promiscuity among adopted kids, above and beyond the normal temptations of the hyper-sexualized teen culture.  Sex can temporarily satisfy an adopted teen’s craving for relationship, “belonging” and a connectedness to another person.  Or, it can be an attempt to emulate and identify with their birth parents if they were also promiscuous.  Or, they can view themselves as “damaged goods” and seek acceptance at any cost through giving themselves to someone else sexually.

Over the last few years we have seen a major shift… an increase in “disconnectedness” among the kids we work with, and especially among the adopted kids.  The normal and powerful desire by all teens to fit in and “belong” comes to adopted young people at the same time they are dealing with a growing sense abandonment by their birth parents.  Even kids who have been doing well may start having major issues as a result.

They start asking questions like “Where is my mom?” “Why would she abandon me?” “Where do I belong?”  The result is confusion and a heightened sense of needing to belong and be connected to another person.  The thought “Maybe there’s something wrong with me,” is common; and it can radiate out to impact their behavior, attitude, and every part of their lives — including their sexual activities.

Let me share with you this story of one of the young ladies now at Heartlight.  She says, “It wasn’t a big deal when I was little.  I was adopted as an infant, so the family I grew up in is the only family I had ever known.  The trouble started when some kids at school asked, ‘Why are you different from your parents?’”

“That’s when I started struggling with my identity and questions about my birth parents like ‘What did they look like?’ and ‘Why did they give me up?’  It really bothered me.  It started to eat away at me as I got older and especially when I found out that my birth mother gave me up because she wasn’t married. So, I became promiscuous myself, just like she had been.”

Her story is not unique.  It’s not that adopted kids are guaranteed to spin out of control, but their need for identity is a major issue for them.  It’s usually a temporary confusion, but it can have lasting consequences if they turn to sexuality as a way to belong.  Parents of adopted kids need to have their radar tuned to this issue and address any signs of sexual promiscuity as soon as they appear.

My good friend, a licensed clinical social worker, Dee Dee Mayer said, “It’s important to be overtly open and honest about the truth.  Being afraid to talk about sexual issues can lead to the opposite of what you want to create, which is safety and acceptance.”  Her point is so important.  Instead of a negative approach, with teens we need to approach sex from a positive standpoint as a great thing that’s worth waiting for.

What we have to make them understand is that such relationships are only a temporary substitute for the real thing.  Yet at the same time, we have to be careful not to give them a wrong view of sex as something dirty or depraved. And it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive.

Don’t wait for things to start going wrong.  Your adopted child will receive massive amounts of input and encouragement to display sexuality and participate in sex from their friends, media and their culture.  So, you need to start early to give them a healthy view of sexuality, both as it relates to God’s design for their future and to their identity.

God doesn’t make mistakes.  Sex is His design.  It isn’t a wrong thing in and of itself; it is just something that has been taken outside His boundaries by our culture.  Encourage your children to wait for the fullness of His plan and save sex for marriage.  Encourage them to find their identity in the love the unfailing Heavenly Father has for them, as well as your love.  You can help steer them through this difficult transition.  And we’re here to help.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program.   Here you can download the Parenting Today’s Teens App, a great way to listen on your schedule.

 

 


The Adopted Teen’s Quest for Identity

Adoption is obviously a better alternative to a child languishing “in the system” – living in foster care or an orphanage. That’s why I have worked many years with national and international adoption organizations whose goal is to match needy kids with great parents. As I’ve experienced these adoptions first hand, I firmly believe that God has His hand in every case. After all, God is the ultimate authority on adoption. I think He provides specific parents with specific children for specific reasons. It may be hard to believe, but God may have given you a child knowing that as a teen they would struggle, and that He would need you for such a time as this.

And, because I believe God maneuvers children into families, I also believe that God is prepared to help these new parents know what to do should their adopted child spin out of control in the teen years. Not all adopted kids go through this struggle, and usually not if they were adopted earlier in life, but many of the older kids do.  God is a great example of how to restore an adopted child going through this struggle. His example of nurturing, understanding, love, patience, kindness, goodness, forgiveness and grace is the best pattern for helping them through their time of difficulty.

The drive for an adopted teen to uncover their history intensifies during the teen years, and they will do almost anything to get their questions answered. I’ve seen kids pull all kinds of stunts, including tracking down their birth parents through the Internet, contacting them unexpectedly, and even setting up a time to meet without ever telling their adoptive parents about it. I’ve witnessed them pay for cell phone numbers, contact attorneys to get help, and send photos to their birth parents — uninvited.

Adopted children face unique circumstances, and it is not unusual for them to struggle with issues surrounding their identity in the teen years. For their parents, the most difficult part is trying not to take their sudden confusion personally. This tussle isn’t about teenage rebellion as much as a struggle to answer questions about their history — who they are, why their birth parents gave them up, and what it means for their future. It isn’t that the teen no longer loves the adoptive parents and are no longer appreciative of all their new family has done for them. It’s that they are in confusion over how they got to where they are.

If you are an adoptive parent, your role is to continue to parent them with the same kind of love you’ve always held. Remember God’s example of nurturing, understanding, love, patience, kindness, goodness, forgiveness and grace. Don’t respond negatively because your feelings are hurt. Don’t say you’re giving up as their parent. And don’t try to “fix” the problem with giving the teenager more “things.” All of this only adds to an adopted teen’s mixed up sense of self and can lead to even more instability.

These kids need both time and stability to work through their issues. It is often a stage that they can work through and come out on the other side even more appreciative of their adoptive parents.  In the meantime, they need their parents to remain steady and calm while they turn their world upside down in a quest to understand their history.  And they may need professional help sorting it all out when the truth is finally made known. While not always true, your teen may discover that the circumstances of their adoption are not what they expected, and the history they uncover has potential to cause even more hurt. So, be watchful and take care to get your adopted teenager the kind of professional help they may need at this time in their life.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.