Navigating Your Adopted Teenager’s Struggles

Adopting a teenager makes a big impact on the teen’s growth and development, but it is also a significant transitional process for everyone involved. Adopting a teen differs from adopting an infant, toddler, or even a young child. When adopting an adolescent, there are unique challenges to face that require patience and understanding.

It is essential to understand the teen adoption process and know what to prepare for and expect. Although you, your family, and every teenager are different, and no two adoptions are the same, you should be as prepared as possible. Understanding the intricacies of teenage adoption can make the adjustment easier for everyone involved.

Understanding Teenage Adoption

All adoption comes with struggle. Because teens are already so developed, they may be deeply impacted by past traumas, changing homes often, or the separation from their biological parents. Depending on their history with foster homes, extended family, or their biological parents, an adopted teenager may face lasting issues that can be difficult to address.

Even the most ideal and smooth teenage adoption will significantly impact everyone involved and require a period of adjustment. Teenagers have more developed emotions and a longer history than younger children, so coming to terms with leaving wherever they called home, joining a new family, entering a new environment, and trying to embrace it all as their own can be difficult.

The struggles that come with teen adoption are not a reflection of the child or you as a parent but the outcome of an unstable and uncontrolled series of events. Working through such struggles will require patience and teamwork. You cannot expect a teenager to come into your home and feel happy and at ease immediately, no matter how comfortable and safe you’ve made it.

Helping your adopted child thrive in your family will require you to work together on facing and healing past traumas, building bonds, and understanding each other.

Facing Common Struggles of Teenage Adoption

You can expect you, your family, and your adopted teen to have struggles, but they can be overcome with time and attention. The following list contains some of the most common struggles facing adopted teens and their families, along with how to manage them.


All teenagers are at a time in their lives when they are developing their identity. They are vulnerable to so many influences while trying to mature and become independent. Do they want their birth parents’ impact to play a role? How do they want to define themselves? Should they build their identity around friends and romantic partners? Are they looking to you for guidance?

A teenager may want to know more about their biological family. Missing pieces can cause a lot of confusion. If the teen has an unfortunate past, they may wonder if the less-than-impressive traits of their parents have carried on in them. Race, ethnicity, and culture also play a role here. These are huge aspects of someone’s identity, and being adopted by a family that doesn’t share those can feel isolating.

To work through this and help your adopted teen come to terms with their past and present, be open to discussing their biological parents and family. Their history isn’t erased when they enter your home, so don’t hide from it. Explain what you know and encourage your adopted teen to open up. Help them realize you are there for support and guidance, but not to push them or force them to be like you.

Loss and Rejection

Most adopted children will feel rejected at some point. No matter how much love they receive from their adopted family, it does not negate the rejection felt by their biological parents, no matter the reason. Coming to terms with this loss, whether recent or long past, takes time.

You can help your child by talking about it and making sure they feel safe and supported. However, know that this sense of loss and/or rejection can trigger low self-esteem, behavioral issues, and attachment disorders. In those cases, reaching out to a professional for one-on-one counseling, family therapy, and other programs where you can work together to overcome and thrive may be beneficial.

Respecting the Past

As a parent to an adopted child, raising them isn’t about instilling your beliefs onto them but respecting their past and helping them grow with you. You can find ways to bond and connect with your teen without erasing their history. Ask them questions about their past, be open to letting them share as much as they’re comfortable with, and work with them to discover more about their past or genealogy.

By acknowledging and respecting their history, you show that your love for them goes beyond what you will build together and includes every part of them, including the unknowns.

Havenwood Academy is a residential treatment center for young women who are struggling with trauma and attachment-related issues. We know that your adopted child’s past impacts their present and their future, so we work with them and you to find the root of problems and work through them. When dealing with low self-esteem, behavioral issues, and attachment disorders, you can be easily overwhelmed, but with our help through multiple therapeutic methods, you’ll see progress. Havenwood Academy specializes in helping those in extreme cases of struggle with teenage adoption. Whether your child is struggling with her identity, behavioral issues, or something else, we encourage understanding, patience, and involvement. We provide everything from individual counseling to family therapy and schooling to ensure a well-rounded and trauma-informed experience. Call us at (435) 586-2500 to learn how we can help your daughter overcome the past and find success and happiness in the future.


Think Havenwood Might Be For You?

We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.