The Psychological Impact of Being Adopted
Children whose parents cannot care for them for one reason or another are often adopted and become part of families that are not biologically related to them. Fortunately, most adopted children are raised by loving, caring parents and have good childhoods. However, people who were adopted can suffer from some long-term psychological impacts that are worth exploring.
Ideally, adoptive parents will have been open with their child about the adoption since they were little, and the fact of the adoption will not be presented as a secret or something that is not to be discussed. However, children and adults who have been adopted sometimes experience feelings of abandonment. Intellectually, they may understand that their biological mother had very good reasons to put them up for adoption. Emotionally, however, they may feel rejected. Deep down, they can experience concerns that maybe she just did not care, or that there was something wrong with them.
It is quite common for young adoptees, on reaching adulthood, to want to find out more about their biological parents. Depending on the situation, they may be entitled to their mother’s contact details. The process of contacting biological relatives can be stressful as well as exciting. Often, adoptees will have fantasised about the moment of meeting their biological mother, only to have a very different experience in real life. It is important to remember that many women and girls who give up babies for adoption do so because they are going through a difficult period in their lives. They may have become pregnant when they were very young and not mature enough to parent, or they may have been struggling with issues of addiction or mental illness. Meeting their now grown-up child may be difficult for them, too. Often, these meetings are not all that either party hoped for. While many adoptees do go on to form a positive and even loving relationship with their biological mother, it is important to accept that the process may be difficult, and at times disappointing. Not infrequently, adopted children who make contact with their biological mothers find out that they grew up in more affluent circumstances than their biological families. This can sometimes lead to feelings of guilt and even imposter syndrome, and a complicated series of emotions that can take some time to process and make sense of. It is important to have emotional support at a time like this, which could include therapy or counselling with a professional who can be objective.
Adoption provides children with caring, loving homes, and a practical approach to adoption is a hallmark of a caring society. While parents should be given every support in caring for their biological children, there are certainly times when this is not possible. On those occasions, loving adoptive parents can provide wonderful, supportive, and nurturing homes to children who need them. Recognising that adopted children can grow up to experience complex emotions about their past and their particular set of circumstances is not a reflection on the families in which they grew up, but rather a normal reaction to questions we all ask ourselves: “Who am I, really? Where do I come from?”
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