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How is Parenting Adopted Children Unique?

Adoption blog photo 1.jpgToday’s blog comes from Allen Sabey, PhD, LMFT, in recognition of National Adoption Awareness Month.

Parenting adopted children can be uniquely challenging. One such challenge that adopted children often face is forming a secure attachment with their new parent(s). Basically, a secure attachment is a reliable emotional bond or trusting relationship between a child and a parent. For example, securely attached children feel more comfortable going to parents to receive comfort when distressed. As a result of inconsistent caregivers in the past, adopted children may struggle to trust a new parent and turn to them for comfort. Fortunately, adoptive parents can take proven steps to ensure their adopted child will form this important secure attachment relationship with them.

First, adopted children may need extra portions of love and understanding. Parents should frequently show and express their love to their adopted child in ways that are meaningful to their child. For example, parents should regularly play with their younger children. In addition, some adopted children struggle with feeling unwanted or confused about their potentially new culture. It is helpful when parents simply express understanding and acceptance of these feelings.

Second, adoptive parents need to maintain firm expectations for their adopted children. Perhaps because of the prior difficulties faced by the child, parents may feel the need to overcompensate and not enact the same structure and discipline as with other children. However, all children, no matter their backgrounds, need a strong sense of structure and firm expectations to thrive.

Lastly, adoptive parents may need to have an extra measure of patience as their adopted child slowly learns that they can trust them. Adopted children are sometimes more resistant to affection or reluctant to open up to their new parents at first and so time is a necessary ingredient.

In sum, as adoptive parents consistently and frequently show love, express understanding, and firmly provide structure, a secure bond will form over time and their adopted children will come to trust them and feel emotionally safe.

Allen Sabey, PhD, LMFT, is the John J. B. Morgan Postdoctoral Clinical Research Fellow at The Family Institute. Some of his specialties include adoption, child behavioral problems, couple conflict and communication, and divorce/marital separation. He also maintains an active program of research that is aimed at understanding how and why family members provide care and support for one another, especially in times of distress.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Learn more about our Adoptive Families Program. Visit our website to learn more about our services. 


College Drinking

Beer pong gameThe Family Institute’s Family Tip of the Month discusses college drinking.

From this month’s tip:

“College drinking is sometimes still viewed as a harmless rite of passage. That’s particularly dangerous given that research shows this age group is much more impulsive even when alcohol’s not involved. Most at risk are incoming freshmen, student athletes, and those involved in fraternities and sororities.”

Read the entire Tip of the Month to learn how parents can influence their child to drink less and how to have conversations about drinking.

For additional Tips and to sign up for our Tip of the month, visit our Tips webpage.

The Family Institute offers affordable counseling for families, couples and individuals. Learn more about our services on our website.

To get support at The Family Institute, visit our Find a Therapist page.

Speak to Your Teen About the Birds and the Bees

The birds and the beesThis Family Institute Family Tip of the Month discusses talking to your teen about sex.

From this tip:

“Talking about sex with our children can be challenging for any parent. What to say? When to say it? Should we share personal experience? Should we assume a posture of neutrality, imparting information only, or should we include personal values, feelings and moral perspectives?

“Studies have found that nearly half of all high school students have had sex, and nearly one-third are sexually active. Every year, over half a million pregnancies occur among adolescents, and nearly half of all sexually transmitted diseases occur among 15 to 24 year-olds. While we might wish it were otherwise, some form of sex (including sexting) has been or will soon be a part of many teen and pre-teen lives.”

Read the entire Tip and learn how to speak to your teen about sex.

For additional Tips and to sign up for our Tip of the month, visit our Tips webpage.

The Family Institute offers affordable counseling for families, couples and individuals. Learn more about our services on our website.

To get support at The Family Institute, visit our Find a Therapist page.

Are You Helicopter Parenting Your High School Child?

Mother and daughterTiger moms. Momma dragons. Wolf fathers. Panda papas. Free range parents. Bulldozer parents. Lawnmower parents. Helicopter parents. Some parents, whether they realize it or not, adopt one of these styles, with the best of intentions. Helicopter parents in particular take a very active role in their child’s life. But what happens to those parents when their children enter high school?

In today’s post, Dr. Adam Fisher discusses specifically the pros and cons of “helicopter parenting,” and offers two key areas a parent can think about as they navigate their child’s adolescent years.

You care. A lot. You want to make sure your adolescent is successful and happy. You freely give advice, provide direction, and try to minimize negative outcomes in your child’s life. You don’t like risk, but what parent does? You work to protect your child at every step. You are caring and involved, and that is great.

During your child’s younger years, maybe you were a room parent or a chaperone for field trips. You may have gone to every practice. Maybe that worked well for your child at that age. There may be problems with it in adolescence, however. Having an over-involved, helicopter parent during late adolescence and young adulthood has been found to be associated with lower self-efficacy, difficulty managing emotions, a greater sense of entitlement, lower levels of trust and connection in peer relationships, and worse parent-child communication, just to name a few.

As you parent during your child’s high school years, here are two things to think about while adapting to a style of parenting that fits and grows with your child.

  1. Your own emotional world. What happens inside you when your teen pushes you away or makes a bid for more freedom? Does your worry lead you to meet your child’s needs for a new level of freedom? Or is your worry harmful? What’s appropriate for your child at this age? Although each teen is different, many need additional support in exploring their world and adapting to high school away from their parents. Consider what drives your parenting – your fear or your child’s needs?
  2. Being “good enough.” Good enough parenting is all about having problems and then working to fix them. When you’re too intrusive into your teen’s life, you can step back. If you don’t have clear limits and boundaries, you can clarify. And if you have too many limits, negotiate. This is all “good enough.” Whether your child is 3, 13, or 23, it’s not too late to better prepare them for adulthood. Resist the urge to tell your teen that you’re changing your parenting style. Know that it’s not too late, and quietly get to work.


Dr. Fisher has extensive training and experience in working with families with adolescents labeled as having “behavior problems.” His areas of expertise are in attachment-based parent education, couples and sex therapy, and struggles related to religion or spirituality. Learn more about Dr. Fisher on our website.

The Family Institute offers therapy and counseling for children, adolescents, parents and families at our Evanston, downtown Chicago, Westchester and Northbrook locations. Visit our website to learn more.

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