A Letter to my (older) Adopted Child…

It is not your fault. It is not always your fault that you are all alone. It is the nature of the beast. It is the way you were raised, it is inherent in you, and sadly, you cannot change it because you are a teenager and you simply don’t have the ability to do so. Your brain is not fully developed, your hormones are raging, and you are angry. I know. And I have failed you. I have failed you because I am so often at a loss as to how to help you. You tell me I don’t understand, and you are right. I was not there for 9 years of your life, 9 of the most formative years of your life. I do not know what you went through, I do not know what happened to you, I do not know how to manage all the feelings and emotions you try so hard to suppress.


I stepped in when you were 9 years old, and I did what I knew. I have always been maternal, and honestly I am now a wonderful mother to my 3 younger children, but they are 11 years younger than you. And I got to start from scratch. I’m sure one day they too will tell me I don’t understand, but it won’t be the same. I won’t have to look at them with the same helplessness with which I look at you just wishing to understand their past. With them, I at least will have been there throughout their life to know that I do understand much more than I do with you.

I have tried to help you battle your demons and I have tried to stand by your side. You are so frustrating. You are so difficult. You drive people away and will not let them love you because you say you don’t care. I know this is your coping mechanism. You are always ready to run, to flee, to leave, and to not let anyone see how much that hurts you. You have been tossed to the curb too many times. But this is no way to live a life. There will be no sunny days if you don’t open up and let people in. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to make that happen for you. I simply stand by and watch as you throw away this one life you have to live.

You so often express to me that you just want to be “normal.” You don’t want to be “adopted”, you don’t want to have been a “foster child”, and you don’t want to have ADHD or ODD or an IEP at school. You definitely don’t want to be in counseling or on medication. You just want to be like everyone else, you don’t want to be separate or special, for good or for bad. But you are so often the one who sets yourself apart. You don’t control your anger or emotions and you make your presence known. And this is because you are upset that you are not the same as everyone else.

But there is no normal! Everyone out there is fighting a battle with something or someone, no one’s life is perfect, and although your battle may be more emotionally draining than most, you could find solace in those who care about you. Stop focusing on the negative and start looking at the positive things that have happened in your life. You have people who care about you, you are smart, and you could have a future if you so choose.

Since you have been with me you have tried to connect with your “real family” but they continue to disappoint you to your detriment. You don’t have to be like them. You don’t have to be forsaken. You are smart and charming and intelligent and very, very manipulative, but I know that is how you were taught to be. Life in foster home after foster home will teach you skills, it will teach you street smarts, it will not teach you how to love or trust. I know this. So again I tell you this is not your fault.

Admittedly I do not know a lot about you and your past and your demons, but here is what I do know. I know you are loved now. I know that it may not be what you expected, you may not believe it, or you may not think this is what love is, but I tell you it is. Love is me standing by your side. Love is me disciplining you when you misbehave. Love is me forcing you to move forward in life and refusing to give up on you as so many others have.


I know this love may not be what you expected; I know this love may not appear to be the same as the love I have for my other children, but you are mistaken. If I could simply cuddle away your sorrows, tickle away your fears, or discipline you with a time out I would, but you are different. Our relationship is different because you are not a baby; you are not a child; I was not there for most of your childhood, and now you are a teenager on the brink of manhood, and trust me, no matter how you act, I know you are more afraid of that than I am. I know you don’t have a direction or a destination, but I will still be here.

I will be your lighthouse in the storm; I will be here as I have been since I walked into that dirty foster home 11 years ago and saw you sitting in the corner of the couch. I will be here… you just have to let me, you just have to take my hand, you just have to trust me.

For advice on trying to communicate with or do what’s best for your biological or adopted teenager, see our 5 Paths to Hope When Your Relationship With Your Teenager Feels Hopeless.

Photo Credits: Kristin dePaula, Pixabay

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