Identity Exploration: How Do I Support My Adopted Teen?

Dear Rebecca,

Thanks again for submitting your question!

Here are some intitial thoughts/guiding ideas to help you get started as you seek to support your teen through this shift in their identity; where they once “rejected being Asian” they now question the loss of their “original culture and language.” You asked, “How can I best emotionally support my teen as they try to find peace with their story?”

1. How would you describe her level of interest in her “original culture”? I wrote about three phases of identity development, is there one that sticks out to you right now?

2. I can relate with your teen. I didn’t want anything to do with “Asian-ness” or being different when I was younger, it seemed to operate as a reminder I didn’t belong in those spaces, didn’t fit it, as if by default (due to my appearance) I was isolated from peers and I would do anything I could to connect with the kids at school. How does your teen navigate those social components within their local group of friends/peers/community? How has that changed recently?

3. Can you think of any particular events or situations that would serve as a “pivot point” to your teen’s interest in their original culture? You might spend a moment reflecting on that (who was it that inspired them, what was the situation, what about the experience led them to think about their own journey, etc.). These single (or ongoing) events can give us a clue about what they’re going after as they seek to know about their original culture. For me, it was a combination of things. I’ve always felt different, like something was missing, like a part of me was unknown, a loss of continuity in my personal story and I yearned to know where I came from. There were also people I’d met along the way who inspired me to look into it humbly and courageously.

4. Lastly, what does “peace” and non-peace look like for you? And what does it look like for your teen? Does it mean they find their birth family? Does it mean they feel comfortable around others who look like them? Would it mean they learn how to deal with racism, or feel equipped to answer questions when asked about their adoption, etc. For you, would it mean reduced anxiety (or even reduced guilt/shame/fear) around a particular topic?

Rebecca, you’re holding such important questions in your hands and I’m super impressed you’d reach out to someone for support. That. Is. So. Cool. Your teen needs parenting. And you’re parenting. Yes!!!!

Ok, I’ll pause here, let me know what you think about those questions and we can go from there!

To your journey,

Cam

PS: these are topics we’d discuss in the parent/caregiver workshop. Take a peek and see how it fits for your family this season!

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