The Emotional Effects of Adoption
Adoption is a lifelong process, and it is important for children and birth and adoptive parents to understand all the emotions that come with the process throughout the lifetime. Adopted people, and the families that adopted them, should maintain relationships with their birth families as much as possible. An ongoing relationship with the birth family may minimize some of the child’s feelings of grief and loss. This may also reduce any trauma associated with separation, and help the child develop and maintain a stronger sense of identity.
Loss and Grief
For some adoptees, the loss of birth parents due to adoption may bring about feelings of loss and abandonment. A number of people adopted as new-borns may at times experience a loss of the early motherly bond, which can be apparent when they get older and able to understand the consequences.
It’s not uncommon for adopted people to wonder why they were placed for adoption – usually with negative connotations attached to these thoughts.
Grief is a common reaction to the loss of birth parents. The grief process may begin when the child is old enough to understand what being adopted means. Young children who are able to understand that they have gained loving adoptive parents are in a position to comprehend that they have lost birth parents. At this point, the realization of this loss may trigger grief.
Apart from losing birth parents, an adopted person may also suffer secondary losses in the form of of brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. There may also be a loss of cultural connection or language in the event the adoption was inter-country or transracial. All of these losses may trigger grief and may require some outlet or some form of resolution.
Identity Development and Self-Esteem
An adopted persons’ questions about identity often occur first during adolescence. The task of identity development during adolescence is often more difficult for the adopted teenager because of the additional adoption issues. An adopted adolescent’s identity development may include questions about their biological family, why he or she was placed for adoption, what became of the birth parents, whether the adolescent resembles the birth parents in looks or in other characteristics.
Identity issues may continue into adulthood, especially in cases where the adopted person is expecting a child themselves, as the new parent may experience a biological connection to a family member for the first time. This new connection may cause the adopted adult to revisit earlier issues of identity.
Managing Adoption Issues
There is significant research, as well as personal accounts of adopted people, that suggest they struggle with issues of loss, identity, and self-esteem. There are a number of ways that adopted persons manage these issues:
They can talk about their feelings with others who have similar lived experiences. The support group may provide a long-needed outlet for any feelings of loss or grief.
It’s important to identify a counsellor who has experience in dealing with adoption issues. At times, the original adoption agency may be able to provide a suitable referral.
Reading about experiences of others can be a helpful coping mechanism for adopted people and their families. Knowing that there are others who have gone through similar experiences can provide reassurance that these feelings and experiences are normal.
There’s been an increase in the number of websites and books about searching for family as more and more adopted people are acting on their desire to search for their birth families. Although reports of adoption reunions are mixed, most searchers report that they are content to have found the truth about themselves and that the truth has filled a void for them.
No child has a voice in the decision to be born. However, every child deserves to grow up in a loving and supportive home. Many women with unplanned pregnancies love their babies all the same and want the very best for them. If an expectant mother doesn’t believe she has the resources, support, or ability to parent her child, Pregnancy by Choice has some adoption options that can be a wonderful gift for their child. Request an appointment today.
Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)
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