Helping Adopted Children Deal with Rejection by Birth Parents

For many children, the sadness of being given up by their birth parents can be soothed somewhat with their adoption into a secure, loving family. For some children, however, it is a much deeper wound, especially when they are rejected outright. Whether their feelings of rejection stem from being given up initially or from when they try to connect with their parents later in life, it can be tremendously painful and difficult to get over.

Understanding Rejection
There are many reasons a mother may give up her child. In most cases, giving her child to someone who is better equipped to care for him is an unselfish, loving thing to do. Still, even in the best circumstances, children may struggle with the fact that their own mother gave them to other people to be cared for.

Children who feel rejected by their birth parents commonly experience feelings of resentment and anger. Holding onto such feelings can make coping mechanisms such as drinking and drugs seem like the only way to deal with their situations. What these children need are people to show them they matter and that their presence is wanted, even if they don't believe that themselves.

Carl Jung believed in children's resilience to adversity. He felt even in the worst situations, all children really needed was love, understanding and the support of one loving, caring adult to pull them through. He also believed that we all have the power within ourselves to heal. So, what can be done to help these children deal with their feelings of rejection from their birth parents?

Tips for Helping Adopted Children Cope

  • Give them a reason. Specific details should be age-appropriate, but the child should be told why her parents gave her up. Even in the worst scenario, a child deserves to know the details of her past. It gives her a history and helps set the stage for the healing process to begin. Giving her reasons also helps the child see both sides, which will help her to understand how much better off she may be in her current situation.
  • Keep them talking. These children are particularly vulnerable to shutting down and building high walls of mistrust around themselves. After all, if the people who gave them life don't want them, who would? This is the very mindset these children can tumble into unless they learn early on to face things head on. When children are encouraged to keep talking, especially about their feelings, they are less likely to internalize.
  • Help them deal with grief. Even if a child is adopted into a loving home, feelings of sadness or anger can linger. He may wonder what it would have been like living with his birth parents. His past is a loss he must grieve for to go on and remain positive.
  • Teach proactive coping mechanisms. This is especially important during the grieving stage so that maladaptive ways of coping, such as falling into drugs or alcohol, aren't considered the only option. Journaling, exercise, meditation, yoga, a punching bag, even that one person who just sits there and listens could be all it takes to work through some negative feelings.
  • Surround them with positive role models. As Carl Jung discovered, children are amazing in that they are able to survive the most horrific experiences and still become well-functioning adults. All it takes is one person they trust, who loves them and gives them unconditional support. If they have that someone in their lives, they can persevere.
  • Deal, heal, then let go. Once they learn to talk about and deal with their feelings in an appropriate manner, they need to let go. They can't go forward if they allow themselves to stay in the past. They should be allowed the time they need to heal and grieve, but they also need to be encouraged to move forward. It won't be a quick and easy process. Children deserve to take the time they need to work through their loss.
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