Adoption: Children's questions and parents answers

Adopted children have unique questions and may experience some psychological distress

WASHINGTON, December 11, 2012 — All adoptive parents should be ready for questions from their children; some should be ready for serious challenges ahead.

The vast majority of adoptions go well with thriving children who perform as well as their non-adoptive counterparts. However, parents and prospective adoptive parents should be aware that some children, especially those who were adopted at an older age, may experience issues surrounding their adoption. And some of these issues may even be extreme. Left unaddressed they can blossom into serious psychological problems, so it is important to ready yourself.

Common Questions

Children of all ages will have questions. The key is for parents not to become upset by them. Be ready for questions, some serious and some that may even be painful for you. The best approach is to establish open communication and be ready.

Common questions include:

1) Why didn’t my birth family want me?

2) Why did you take me from my “real” family?

3) Why do you even want me?

4) Do I have brothers and sisters waiting for me? Where are they?

5) Why do I have to live with you?

If you have trouble answering these questions or if you find that your child is having trouble grappling with the answers, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. There are many psychologists who deal exclusively with adoptees.

Older Children

Children adopted after the age of two may suffer more significant turmoil and feelings of confusion surrounding their adoption. In fact, the longer a child goes without a stable, permanent family the more profound the effects are.

Older children are more aware of their lives before adoption. In some cases, their early years may have been very traumatic, marked by suffering, abandonment as well as physical and psychological trauma. Serious psychological issues are more apt to manifest in older children.

There are warning signs that your child may be experiencing profound suffering and that you may need to seek help. Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:

Hypervigilence: This is when a child must do the same thing over and over or obsesses over small details in ordinary situations.

Food Obsession: Children may engage in possessive behavior toward food, even going so far as to hoard and hide their food.

Hyperactivity: Children are easily distracted, impulsive and even aggressive. This can be diagnosed as ADD, but it may also be a way for children to act out when they are unable to deal with their feelings.

Depression: Your child is withdrawing from friends and family, is sleeping a lot, has lost interest in activities that he or she used to love.

It’s critical that you are aware of the signs so you can take action early and intervene. The sooner these behaviors and their underlining causes are addressed the less profound the effects will be.

All families face challenges and adoptive families are no different. What’s different are the issues involved. Preparing now to face tough questions, have frank conversations and keep the doors of communication open will help you successfully navigating those challenges. And when you tackle them, together, the happier and healthier your child—and your entire family—will be.


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Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

Andrea is also mother to Maxine, who was adopted from Vietnam in 2006, and is the inspiration for The Red Thread column on adoption at The Washington Times Communities.   Andrea is currently at work on a book on international adoption.

In addition to her work as mother, writer and traveler, she is the founder and president of Media Branding International, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations craft and promote their image in media outlets around the globe.

Find Andrea at andpoe@Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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