Teen intercountry adoptees talk about the cultural challenges of growing up in the U.S.—considerations for their parents.
For untold numbers of older orphaned children in developing and impoverished countries, adoption into a stable and loving home environment in the U.S. provides them with hope and opportunities for a bright future. Although adoption of older children has waned in recent years, kids as old as 11 and 12 are still being adopted into the U.S from countries such as Ukraine, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. Their adjustment to their new home environment is almost never without its challenges. My young friend “Jenna” was adopted from Russia at age 15. She shared with me that if she had turned 16 in her orphanage, she would likely have been put out on the streets with little options, possibly needing to prostitute herself in order to survive. She is grateful for her adoption, but also shared: “I had a hard time communicating what I wanted or needed to my new family . . .it took me around two years to learn the English language, and from what I can remember, it was very frustrating for me not being able to understand people, along with not being understood.” Even the “little things” that we parents may take for granted can be big challenges for adoptees, especially those who are adopted at older ages. For instance, “Liam”, adopted from Nicaragua at age ten, recalls that a major challenge for him was getting used to the cold weather. “Olivia”, adopted from Romania as a young teen, recalls that she was very confused about the American style of humor.
Parents, as we help our children navigate the major challenges of living in a new and strange world, let us remember daily—and even hour by hour—to be patient with, and attentive to our child’s cultural challenges and struggles. Do not assume anything. Remember to be sensitive to the “little things” like cold weather, humor and food,/diet, as well as the big things like language, loss & grief, and social adjustment. Remember also that you will likely need to sensitize some of your relatives and friends, as well as your child’s teachers and coaches to use an extra measure of patience and understanding. Keep your eyes and ears open and keep the lines of communication flowing with your child about even the smallest matters. You are your child’s biggest advocate!
ATTENTION ADOPTIVE AND FOSTER PARENTS! With Adoptive Family Resources, Inc., Dr. Andrews offers a service called “PARENT-TO-PARENT COACHING.”
This service is a 3-to-4 session format that can assist parents with some of the common challenges of parenting adoptive and foster children. As a veteran adoptive parent of nearly 28 years, Dr. Andrews understands these challenges. PARENT-TO-PARENT COACHING is confidential and affordable, and can be done over Zoom from anywhere in the U.S., and in some cases, in-person.
For more information, please check out the Parent-to-Parent video on the SERVICES page of our website: adoptivefamilyresources.org. < Click Here >