“The task of being respected by your adopted teen is not to control or restrict them. It is to help them to make informed decisions, learning skills that will help them prepare for young adulthood. And strengthen your relationship.
But why might it be challenging specifically for adoptive parents to set limits?
In my experience, many adoptive parents equate saying no with deprivation. It’s natural to want to compensate for deprivation that someone has experienced. If a person was starving for extended periods of time, why wouldn’t you want to give them a feast?
A few years ago, I saw a little boy for psychotherapy, named Nate, who had been abandoned and left for dead at the age of two. When he started with me, Nate was four years old, newly adopted. He was really cute. His smile lit up a room. And, despite it all, he was basically a happy kid. Once, we heard an ambulance whiz by outside. He looked up, as if this wasn’t his first ambulance, quickly regrouped and went back to playing Legos. His speech was delayed and every picture I asked him to draw looked the same—scribbles.
Now, I am really clear about my boundaries but part of me wanted to give him…everything—the rest of the afternoon, snacks and toys to take home. I knew better, of course. From me, he needed a therapist, nothing more, nothing less. My wish to give Nate everything was how I managed my own feelings of helplessness about his trauma. Of course, nothing can alter his past. To think that I could somehow make up for it is an illusion.
Unchecked, our wish can be too similar to pity. Pity suggests that we feel sorry for them, which is the last thing that this boy or anyone needs.
Do you worry that when you set limits you’re depriving your adopted teen somehow?
But even when you’re ready to do right by your adopted teen, how do you set and uphold limits while keeping adoption in mind?”
Excerpt from “Parenting in the Eye of the Storm: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Teen Years.”
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