Divorce is hard on children in general, but there can be another layer of difficultly in the case of adopted children. The loss of a family unit can serve to amplify some of the tough emotions adoptees are already dealing with. Adopted kids often struggle with the idea of whether they “belong” in a family, and this becomes even more complicated when a family is separating and splitting into two independent households.
On top of this, adoptees have often already experienced loss, and some experience trauma early on in life. A divorce will be yet another loss in the form of a solid family structure, something the child may have never even had until he or she was adopted. Throughout a divorce, the concept of family is essentially redefined, and your child may struggle to figure out where he or she fits into this new arrangement.
As an adoptive parent, you may also be experiencing some significant challenges. After all, to be able to adopt to begin with, you created a profile that highlighted the cohesion and strength of your family, but now the partnership between you and your spouse is ending. You may feel guilt and even hold yourself to a higher standard than families who did not adopt.
To handle all of this, it’s time to recommit to the well-being and health on your child. It can be hard to keep a “child first” mindset in times like this, but it is incredibly important to provide your child with stability and security.
Keep your boundaries
Try to keep the same rules, daily rituals and boundaries you had before intact. It is tempting to become the “fun” parent, letting rules go by the wayside, but you need to be the foundation your child can depend on. Thinking of the divorce as a battle or competition is an easy mindset to fall into, but it won’t do you or your child any good. Your words and actions will affect your child, so think before you speak or do something you’ll regret later. Do not badmouth the other parent in front of your child, and try not to undermine his or her decisions. Go in the opposite direction and affirm your child’s love for his or her other parent as best as you can.
Remember you are a role model
You are your child’s most important teacher and their primary role model. Consider how you are teaching them to deal with negative emotions like grief and anger and how you’re showing them to handle adversity. If you looked at yourself from a third party’s view, would you be the type of teacher you would want for your child? It is okay to show them healthy reactions to things like anger and sadness, but don’t forget to show them strength and joy, too.
Do not let your kid shoulder the blame
Sometimes, children blame themselves for a divorce. Reassure your child that the divorce is a decision you have made and not something that he or she has caused. Remind him or her that the divorce does not mean you or the other parent love him or her any less.
If your child is really struggling or even if he or she seems completely okay, consider taking him or her to a counselor. Your child may not want to discuss his or her feelings with you yet, but he or she may be willing to speak openly to a counselor who can help.
If you have any concerns about parenting plan creation or other aspects of the divorce, speak to a family law attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can answer your questions and ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.