The fact that an adopted child becomes a child implies not only welcoming him/her but also being able to take care of his/her needs and wishes, which will not necessarily coincide with those of the family. However, this is no different from what happens with biological children, who must also be “adopted” after being brought into the world to become real children.
The history that a biological child records in his or her mind (children with a sufficiently good relationship with their parents) is made up of experiences with all kinds of affections, which are now known to begin during pregnancy. Negative affects are also included, but they are well tolerated by the child because the genetic-emotional bond that unites him to his parents serves as a support.
Is a paternal-filial bond forged with adopted children?
The paternal-filial bond functions as a protective shield against destructive affections, both those of the child and those of the parents. This bond is not (so) easy to achieve with the adopted child, since there was a lack of contact during the pregnancy, adoptive parents may even have negative feelings towards the child, especially when they expect him/her to be the ideal child who will mitigate their narcissism damaged by the impossibility of having children biologically.
It is important to emphasize that the adopted child’s wound is not the adoption itself, it is the abandonment. This makes it impossible to separate abandonment and adoption, as it directly affects the bond and self-esteem. In every family there is a myth about its origin, necessary to characterize its uniqueness, its family identity, it is the “family novel” that is transmitted from generation to generation, but it is something that does not occur in adoptions.
Adoptive parents who have been able to work through their grief will also be able to inform their child according to the degree of understanding that the child has at each stage of development, informing about the double aspect: parents who are missing a child, and a child who is missing parents.
The truth of the adopted child’s story: key to building his or her own identity
If there is no “truth” in the history of the adopted child, it will be impossible to construct his history. Authors Powell and Afifi explain that adoptees who feel secure in their adoption and maintain open communication with their adoptive family may be better able to manage uncertainty and grief.
Children who are not informed of their status are children who are robbed of what belongs to them. In this way they are condemned to begin their lives with the concealment of a truth. The lack of information hinders the child’s and the parents’ ability to develop bonds of trust that allow the introduction of good internal objectives, which will support a good psychic structure and a good family relationship.
These adopted persons may feel anger towards their adoptive parents, depression, and even present trust problems in future relationships.
What is the phantom syndrome and can a child intuit that he/she is adopted?
Psychoanalyst Abrahan i Törok refers to the phantom syndrome to describe that someone carries a memory or information in their unconscious throughout their life and does not allow them to live a full life. The more we try to hide a secret, the more it is recorded in our memory, and that which is not mentioned in a family will always lurk menacingly within that family.
On the other hand, it is essential that people are emotionally prepared before searching for their birth parents, as these can be emotionally intense experiences. Preparation can help to reflect on the possible expectations and reactions of the people being searched for, including rejection itself.
Do all adult adoptees cope with the adoption experience?
Although Borders et al. state that “most adult adoptees outgrow the adoption experience and are as well-adjusted as non-adopted persons,” studies show that many adoptees have difficulty building their identity and self-esteem.
What should therapy with adopted persons be like?
Adopted persons frequently do not have their genetic or medical history, something that can be very important for diagnosing and treating genetically based medical conditions, as well as for forming a family, for fear that their children may inherit certain pathologies.
In psychological therapy with adopted persons, the history, the “family myth” must be reconstructed, taking into account that it will not be entirely real, but it will be accepted and shared. At the same time, self-esteem and abandonment anxiety should be treated. This includes addressing what that person has lived through, what he/she has suffered, how he/she feels… In this way, throughout the treatment, it will be observed how his/her inner world is gradually populated, making him/her feel less empty and with greater courage to face his/her life. The family novel will thus be completed, with negative aspects but also with positive ones.