What Does Adoption Mean to a 17-18 Year Old?

By the age of 17, most teens are looking forward to being 18 and considered an adult. Their focus is on friends, independence and freedom.

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Adoption should have been discussed throughout their lifetime, the process explained and questions answered. There may still be unknown information and thoughts of searching for that information or a reunion with the birth family.

As they leave and move into the world of college and adult relationships, the excitement of being on their own is shadowed by separation from the family. Any feelings they have on abandonment by a birth parent may resurface and, while not being abandoned by adoptive parent(s) – it may feel that way to them. “Losing” another parent is stressful for an adoptee.

Worries at the age, include:

“Will peers accept me?”

“What if I meet or fall in love with a blood relative and don’t know it?”

“If I look for and find my birth parent(s) will that really upset my parents?” (Notice the adoptive parents are referred to as the “parents”.)

“Can I come home?”

Parents’ worries include:

“Are they really ready to be on their own?”

“Will they be accepted?”

“Can they meet their (academic/work/social) responsibilities?”

“What if they look for their birth parents and don’t tell me?”

“If they can’t make it on their own, what does that say about me?”

“Will they come home?”

While fears and concerns are similar, the adopted teen sees any mention of these issues by a parent as standing in the way of their independence and try to reassure a parent that they are ready to be out on their own. Parents watch from the sidelines, hoping their teen has the needed skills and judgment to do just that.

Teens are establishing their own lifestyle and schedules, choosing their own friends and deciding what to eat and when to sleep. Some experience an entitlement and use guilt or manipulation to try and get what they want from parents. It is fine to assist them, but also a time to continue the conversations relating to working hard and earning for themselves what they need and/or want. They have to learn to balance making their own decisions and turning to parents for help and guidance when they need it. But asking for help and following suggestions are two different things. Parents have to be aware of this and not be overly critical.

Separation is difficult for the parent and as excited as the teen is for this giant step, they have anxieties and concerns, as well. How this life transition is handled is important in establishing the adult-to-adult relationship.

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