Adoption Triad: Parenting Your Adopted Teenager

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April 2023   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month   

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Parenting Your Adopted Teenager

Parenting an adopted teenager can come with unique challenges and opportunities for parents. It is essential to recognize that adopted teenagers have needs and experiences that other teenagers may not have, especially if they have experienced trauma or instability. These experiences can add a layer of complexity to the development of teenagers during a time that is already made complex through normal growth and identity searching. Providing a safe and secure environment is important when allowing the adopted teenager to explore their identity and find their voice. Give them time and space to ask questions, seek information, and provide them support and affirmation as they do so.

It is also important to be aware of any special needs or struggles your adopted teenager may face and to seek adoption competent therapy and services when needed. Adopted teenagers may have complex emotions and behaviors due to their past experiences. They may struggle with feelings of anger, grief, or confusion. Being patient and understanding is critical when a teen expresses these feelings. Teens are already undergoing rapid changes in their brains and hormones in addition to carrying the impact of their childhood experiences. Sometimes, the effects of separation and loss and trauma do not show up until adolescence. Emotional support and nurturing from caring adults, and potentially peers, are vital during this time.

If an adopted teenager is from a different cultural or ethnic background than their adoptive family, learning about their culture and heritage can help caregivers understand their perspective and provide support and guidance sensitive to their history and experiences. Additionally, it can be helpful to connect the teen with other adopted teens with similar cultural backgrounds or for parents to connect with adoptive parent support groups or a therapist who can help them learn about parenting in racially and culturally diverse families. Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Parenting in Racially and Culturally Diverse Adoptive Families provides families with information to support the youth’s racial and cultural identity development.

Parents can help their adopted teenager thrive and succeed with the right approach and resources. Adoption professionals can work with current and prospective foster and adoptive parents, using the following resources and training programs, to learn how to support their teens better:


Parenting Your Adopted Teenager



By Child Welfare
Information Gateway


National Training and Development Curriculum for Foster/Adoptive Parents




CORE Teen: Curriculum



   By Spaulding for Children


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