Counseling for Adoption Issues

Does Your Family Need More Balance And Common Ground?

Are you trying to figure out how to keep your family feeling connected, engaged and functioning well as a whole? Do family conflicts often make you wonder if you are doing enough to ensure that everyone – both your adopted and biological children – feel equally supported and loved? Has there been added stress or anxiety around your child’s adoption – especially if you recently adopted, just told your adopted child about his or her adoption, have an adopted teenager, or are contemplating how to explain the adoption? Are there personality, communication or behavioral conflicts within your home? Has your marriage or partnership been affected by these stressors – adding another layer of unease to family interactions? Have you noticed behavioral changes, social anxieties, school issues, isolation, or acting out in any or all of your children? Do you wish that you had better tools and more confidence to create some common ground for connection and understanding between everyone in your family?

It can be frustrating and sad to watch your children, partner and family as a whole struggle to connect and function in ways that feel good to everyone. Every family comes with its own set of strengths and challenges. However, families who have adopted can have unique challenges to overcome, which may require a little extra thought and care. It’s normal for adopted children to struggle with abandonment and attachment issues, which can affect everyone within the primary family system.

Imbalance Within Adopted Families Is Very Common

At some point, every adopted family will be presented with an opportunity to get closer and stronger through some type of imbalance occurring within their family system. This imbalance can look as minor as grades slipping or as major as total withdrawal or intense conflict. Most families experience something in the middle – boundaries are pushed, children become more resistant, and a change in the family dynamic occurs. Oftentimes, the adopted child creates the opportunity for increased family closeness when he or she begins trying to understand who he or she is, where he or she came from and why he or she was given up.  While this personal self-exploration can create a bumpy path for the whole family, with help, it can also present a wonderful opportunity to connect, understand personal and family needs, and strengthen the family bond.

Therapy Can Help Better Communication and Strengthen Bonds Within Adopted Families

There are many tools and resources available to help adopted families, and therapy is a very useful and effective place to learn, communicate and connect. Sometimes, even minor adjustments in communication and more education around the adoption and self-discovery processes can yield dramatic improvements.

Therapy can provide a valuable opportunity to grow together as a family. It also offers support for each individual during the growing process. Experience shows us that therapy can help both adopted and biological children – and their parents – feel more supported, empowered and secure as individuals and within their family system.

A BPS therapist  highly trained and experienced in counseling for adoption issues can help you identify and address the problems that are occurring within your home. Your therapist can help you and your family develop concrete strategies to improve the problematic family dynamics and address issues that may be occurring for your children individually. In addition to working on present issues, your therapist can help your family have better communication, improve accountability, strengthen attachment and connection, and find new avenues to connect as a whole family. Relationships within the family can also be strengthened as family members discover new ways to connect.

Adoption can add stress to marriages and partnerships as well as to the family dynamic. If your marriage or partnership is strained, your therapist may suggest that you work on that primary relationship first. Adopted children often struggle with stability, safety and normalcy. When mom and dad’s relationship is not strong, it can translate into feeling a lack of safety. With help, you and your partner can look at your individual roles, level of family involvement, and parenting styles. Together, you can develop a family structure, household rules and a system of consequences and awards that is appropriate for your unique family. When mom and dad are united, the whole family can feel stronger.

Adoptions can be one of the greatest ways for families to grow closer. Adoption is often what brings families to therapy, and early intervention can lead to more mindful, cohesive and close relationships. Developing effective communication and empathy skills can improve your family dynamic. It can also give you and your children the tools to make healthier choices, develop and maintain better relationships and lead to improved self-esteem, self-awareness and long-term happiness in all aspects of life.

But, you still may have questions and concerns…

I think that my family could really benefit from therapy, but I’m concerned about costs.

This is your family’s lives and wellbeing. Addressing everyone’s mental and emotional health and ability to connect now can lead to both immediate and long-term results. It can also prevent difficulties within the family from getting worse and behaviors from becoming entrenched as your children get older.

Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with adoption issues or who they or their family couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct an initial assessment and match your family with a therapist who is trained and experienced to treat adoption issues and whose personality is a good match for your family. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to your partner, children and yourself may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine everyone in your home feeling and functioning better now and in the long-term on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.

If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.

I’ve taken classes, done ample research and have a lot of information about the whole adoption process. I’m not sure if therapy can provide us with any new tools, skills or information.

The education and information you’ve received is a great starting point, but therapy can be a resource for the rest of your family. Your family and its strengths and challenges are unique and ever changing. Therapy can help translate all the wonderful knowledge you’ve acquired to the rest of your family. And, you can learn which tools and strategies are appropriate for your unique situation, and how the different approaches can be used to help you all work well as a whole.

Everyday is an opportunity to make new discoveries about your family – how you connect, what’s working and what needs help. Our children teach us more than any class or textbook. Therapy provides the opportunity for all family members to have the space and time to talk openly about personal needs and feelings. This can lead to better communication and an increased closeness that cannot be found in a book or classroom.

I think that therapy could be helpful, but I think my family will refuse to go.

It’s really hard to know what to do when your loved ones refuse help. Involving your family in the process – giving them the power to help choose the therapist – can be an effective approach to introducing the idea of therapy. You can tell your partner and children that they are going to try family therapy – not negotiable – but offer them the opportunity to interview and select a therapist.

If your family’s refusal continues, you may want to seek advice from a BPS family therapist. Family therapists are trained to offer parental guidance and support. They can help you navigate difficult barriers and strategize different and more effective ways for you to communicate with your family.

We encourage you to schedule an initial assessment with Dr. Jan Hittelman. Jan will work with you to determine what your family’s specific issues are and to ensure a good match between you, your family and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your child with a therapist who has expertise working with families and adoption issues.

JK Photo3BPS therapist Jennifer Key, LCSW helped create the content for this page. Jenny has been working with family adoption issues since 1999, and adoption is a primary focus within her practice. She practices traditional therapy methods, such as psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral techniques, but has also found that many children and adolescents experience significant, positive change while interacting with animals. Jenny’s practice includes equine and animal therapies.

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