Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Cope With the Challenges of Being an Adopted Child?
“I don’t know anything, really, about my natural parents, and that upsets me a lot.”—Barbara, aged 16.
“I don’t have the foggiest idea where I was actually born or who my parents were. Sometimes I think about it at night.”—Matt, aged 9.
“When I get into arguments with my parents, I think maybe my ‘real’ parents would be more understanding. It’s a terrible thing for me to do, and I’ve never said anything about it.”—Quintana, aged 16.
NO DOUBT about it—life as an adopted child can have its challenges. More than a few youths struggle with feelings like those described above. Many wonder if they should find out who their biological parents are, or they wonder if life would be happier with them. And these are not the only challenges.
In the preceding article in this series, we discussed a few negative assumptions that some adopted youths may make about themselves. * Combating such discouraging thoughts is essential to finding joy in life as an adopted child. What, though, are some of the other challenges that may arise, and how can you take practical steps to cope with them?
Are They My “Real” Parents?
Thirteen-year-old Jake says that he used to dwell on thoughts of his biological mother. That caused him some problems with his adoptive parents. He recalls: “Whenever I got mad I’d say, ‘Oh, you’re not my real mother—you can’t punish me like that!’”
As you can see, Jake had to come to grips with a big question: Who was his “real” mother? If you are adopted, you may be wrestling with the same issue, especially if you find yourself wondering whether your biological parents might treat you better than do your adoptive parents. But is simple biology—the birth process—the only thing that can make people into “real” parents?
Jake’s adoptive mother didn’t think so. He says: “My mother would say, ‘Yes, I am your real mother. Even though you had a birthmother, I am your real mother now.’” When adults take a child into their home and agree to become responsible for housing, feeding, and raising the child, caring for the child’s needs, they indeed become “real” parents. (1 Timothy 5:8) It is likely so in the eyes of the legal authorities of the land where you live. What about in the eyes of God?
Consider what may be the most famous case of adoption in history—that of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph the carpenter, yet Joseph adopted the child as his own. (Matthew 1:24, 25) As Jesus grew up, did he rebel against Joseph’s authority? On the contrary, Jesus understood that it was God’s will for him to obey his adoptive father. Jesus was well familiar with a law that Jehovah had given to the children of Israel. What law was that?
Honor Your Father and Mother
The Scriptures tell young ones: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) The word “honor” is often used in the Bible to indicate respect, esteem, and consideration. You can show your legal guardians such honor by being kind to them, respecting their dignity, listening to their viewpoint, and being ready to fulfill any reasonable requests made of you.
What, though, about those times when your adoptive parents seem unreasonable? Granted, that will happen. All parents are imperfect, whether adoptive or not. Their flaws can make obedience a real challenge. And it is not surprising if at such times you tend to focus on your adoptive status and wonder if it somehow reduces your obligation to obey. But is that really the case?
It may help you to think of Jesus’ situation. Remember, he was perfect. (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22) But his adoptive father was not; nor was his natural mother. Likely, then, there were occasions when Jesus could see that his parents were in the wrong. Did he rebel against Joseph’s imperfect headship or Mary’s flawed maternal guidance? No. The Bible tells us that as Jesus grew up, “he continued subject” to his parents.—Luke 2:51.
Now when you and your adoptive parents have a difference in viewpoint, you may be convinced that they are wrong. You must admit, though, that you are imperfect too. So there is always the possibility that you are in the wrong. At any rate, is it not the best course to follow Jesus’ example? (1 Peter 2:21) Doing so will help you to obey. But there is an even greater reason for obeying your parents.
The Bible says: “You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20) Yes, your obedience makes your heavenly Father happy. (Proverbs 27:11) And he wants you to learn obedience because he wants you to be happy as well. His Word encourages young ones to obey, adding, “that it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.”—Ephesians 6:3.
Strengthening the Bond With Your Adoptive Parents
Having a good relationship with your adoptive parents involves much more than honor and obedience. Likely, you want a home atmosphere that is warm and loving. Your adoptive parents have the responsibility to create such an atmosphere. But you can play an important part as well. How?
First, look for ways to get closer to your parents. Ask them about themselves, their lives, their interests. Seek their advice on some problem that is weighing you down, choosing a time when they are relaxed and receptive. (Proverbs 20:5) Second, look for ways to contribute to the functioning of the household, such as by helping with housework and chores without having to be prompted.
What, though, about your natural parents? If you decide to seek them out, or if they decide to seek you out, will that necessarily threaten your bond with your adoptive parents? In the past, adoption agencies often refused to pass on information to help biological parents find the child they gave up for adoption or vice versa. Today, policies in some lands are more open, and many adoptive children have been brought face-to-face with biological parents whom they do not remember at all. Of course, adoption policies may be different where you live.
At any rate, whether to seek out your biological parents or not is a personal decision, and it may not be an easy one. Adopted youths have a wide range of feelings on the issue. Some yearn to find their biological parents; others are determined not to do so. However, you may be assured that many adopted youths have been brought into contact with their natural parents without losing the stable relationship they have with their adoptive parents.
Seek advice from your adoptive parents and perhaps from mature friends in the Christian congregation. (Proverbs 15:22) Weigh your options carefully, and allow some time before taking any action. As Proverbs 14:15 says, “the shrewd one considers his steps.”
If you decide to try to form a connection with your natural parents, endeavor to reassure your adoptive parents of your continued love and respect. That way, as you gradually come to know those who caused your birth and gave you up for adoption long ago, you will maintain the stable bond with the parents who raised you and trained you.
Strengthen Your Bond With Your Heavenly Father
Many adopted youths struggle with a fear of abandonment. They worry that they might lose their adoptive family as they once lost their biological family. Such fears are understandable. Still, remember these wise words: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside.” (1 John 4:18) Do not let morbid fears of losing your loved ones dominate you. Instead, build your love for others, including all those in your household. Above all, though, build your love for your heavenly Father, Jehovah God. Perfectly reliable, he never abandons his faithful children. He can soothe your fears.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Catrina, who was adopted as a child, says that reading the Bible greatly assisted her in drawing closer to God and living a happy, productive life. She says that a close relationship with Jehovah “is so important because our heavenly Father knows how we feel.” Catrina’s favorite scripture is Psalm 27:10, which says: “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.”
[Picture on page 20]
Look for ways to get closer to your adoptive parents