Q: We've always been open with our teenage son about the fact that we adopted him at birth. But recently he's become almost obsessed with the topic — and especially his birth parents. If he gets upset, he shouts that we aren't his "real" mom and dad. This is devastating to us; we love him so much and want him to know we ARE his family. How can we help him?
Jim: This is actually a common scenario for adoptive families. All teenagers struggle with identity issues, and that's definitely compounded when the various facets of adoption get thrown in the mix ("my biological parents didn't want me," etc.) So counselors suggest that parents not become hurt, discouraged or threatened when the adopted child expresses a desire for information about, or contact with, their birth parents.
Of course, much depends upon your own situation and the circumstances of the adoption. But in general, the adoption should not be an "off-limits" topic with your son. Allow him to ask questions, and answer to the best of your ability. If you know anything about his birth parents, tell him what you can. If there's a possibility for contact at some point, prayerfully consider how you might help facilitate that.
Again, one of the most helpful things parents can do for adopted kids is to be open, honest and forthcoming. Whatever the circumstances of his birth, it doesn't negate the fact that he is your son and a member of your family.
And make sure to emphasize this: With all else said, his birth mother/parents loved him enough to choose to give him life and a chance for a future through adoption.
If you'd like additional help navigating these waters, please call our counseling team for a free consultation. The number is 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: After such a contentious political year, we thought we'd be able to move on from partisan debates. But extended family and friends with views across the spectrum just keep harping on these issues. Our children are confused; how do we handle this with them?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Many of our beliefs, for good or bad, are framed as political matters. As parents we get to help our kids develop their belief system.
These five disciplines are helpful for belief development and political discussions. Teach your children:
• To be humble. Humility helps us see political conversations as invitations to learn about others — what they think and why they believe what they believe. Parents can model listening as a way of seeing the other person's point of view. It's not about sharing the other person's beliefs, but showing respect.
• To discern. Your children must learn discernment when it comes to interpreting media and popular thought. Teach them early that beliefs drive how we think and act. Discuss the beliefs and values of your home and why they are important.
• To reflect. At an age-appropriate level, discuss social issues and why they are important. Have respectful conversations about the actual issues and why people may feel strongly about certain ones.
• To respond. Political issues can quickly divide people. Reacting doesn't help, but responding with questions such as, "Help me understand why you believe that?" can break down barriers.
• To stand. What does your family stand for? What are your firm convictions and beliefs, and why? Teach your children to know what they believe and why their beliefs are worth standing up for.
There will always be disagreements over political issues. But if children learn to have these discussions with humility, discernment and a good understanding of their core beliefs, they can uphold what matters most.
You can find additional parenting tips at FocusOnTheFamily.com/parenting.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.