Remember when the child you adopted was an infant, newly into your home. Every day was filled with wonder and discovery, every moment seemed to bring a new level of joy and fulfillment.
Now that child has grown into a teenager, and everything seems off kilter. All the happy times from the first 10-12 years of your life together seem to have disappeared, almost as if they never happened. Your child is distant, sullen, angry, withdrawn or even intentionally disrespectful or misbehaving. What can you do?
First, join the crowd!! Whether you are the parent of an adoptee or a biological child, you have to expect challenging behavior during your child’s teen years. Their brains are still developing, and the part of their brain that involves controlling impulses, making good judgments and engaging in logical reasoning is not fully developed. Other cognitive functions, such as critical thinking, empathy and understanding social cues, are also in flux.
There are, however, some very concrete steps you can take to help your adopted child through these years:
- Participate with them in taking measured and positive risks—One of the scariest and most frustrating aspects of being a teen is being exposed to adult responsibilities and risks for the first time. Regardless of how mature and well-adjusted your child is, they are still doing it for the first time. If you are there to help them, it won’t be so unnerving.
- Take responsibility for exposing your children to a broad spectrum of cultural, social and physical activities—Your tendency can be hands off, but your kids will appreciate that you cared enough to take them to concerts, movies and other events. And don’t be put off if you ask what they want to do and they say I don’t know, or I don’t care. They are probably giving the most honest answer they know how to give.
- Pay attention for problems in school or in social settings—Your child may need some assistance or may simply use academics as a place to either get attention or act out.
- Let your children be involved in decision-making—Be prepared for initial hesitancy or ambivalence. Your kids may be trying to figure out what you want to do, or they may still be discovering what they love to do. They don’t get to make all the decisions, and you always have absolute veto power, but the more you involve them, the more they will come to understand that their interests matter.
Contact Our Office
To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.