Ask AF: Helping Kids Who Feel "Different"

Preteens just want to fit in with their peers. Here's how you can help your adopted child get past feeling different.

Q: My 11-year-old reports that she feels “different” from her peers. Is there anything I can do to help her learn social skills?

 

A: Try to observe your daughter with her peers. Does she have difficulty asking to be included in group play, or does she domineer? Does she listen well to others? Watch a TV show together, turn down the sound, and ask what she thinks the characters are feeling in different situations.

You may be surprised at her perceptions. Does she think she’s different from her peers in her interests and intellectual ability? For a girl her age, it could be a physical issue – is she ahead of or behind her peers in development, is she tall, is she overweight? These issues can be immense for girls approaching middle school. And, finally, is it an adoption issue? Is the child a difference race from her parents or most, if not all, of her peers?

Two books you might find useful are Good Friends Are Hard to Find, by Fred Frankel (Perspective), and Unwritten Rules of Friendship, by Natalie Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore (Little, Brown).

Regardless of the problems they may be facing, kids your daughter’s age benefit from being around other adopted children – especially transracial adoptees. Your daughter needs to know she is not the only kid who looks different from everyone else in her house. Having even one friend with whom she feels comfortable will be a huge help. Look for a heritage camp, culture day, or adoptee support group, or ask your agency.

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