Fighting Words

In the heat of an argument, your teen screams she would rather live with her birth parents. Here's how to handle it.

Adopted teens can use birth parents as a weapon when they're upset

As teens prepare for adulthood, they become more independent and self-reliant, and have a need for distance from their parents. They begin to spend more time away from home, more time in their rooms, and become more private about their thoughts and feelings.

Teens also get angry — often lashing out at those closest to them. When a teen disagrees with Mom or Dad, he’s establishing himself as “separate” and delineating his own identity. A teen’s anger can be used to test his parents limits and decisions as he pushes for more freedom.

Staying Calm

No parent is immune to feeling hurt when a teen explodes at her. Parents may be especially vulnerable to a teen’s anger if she uses adoption as a weapon. Hearing, “I don’t have to listen to you — you’re not my real mom” or “My real dad would let me stay out late” is every adoptive parent’s fear. In most cases, your teen is doing what all teens do — using anger to distance herself, to assert her independence, and, possibly, to manipulate you into letting her get her way.

It’s possible, of course, that some adoption-related issue is weighing on your teen’s mind. Perhaps your child questions her identity, wants more information about her birth parents, or feels insecure about the prospect of leaving home. She may feel uncomfortable broaching these subjects, and is using conflict to bring them up in a roundabout way.

Before you respond, be prepared for provocative statements. If you are, you’ll be less likely to respond with anger or hurt. Convey to your child that her attempts to refocus the conversation will not be successful. Let her know that you don’t have “buttons” she can push (even though you probably do!). Assure her that you’re willing to have a conversation about her thoughts and concerns at an appropriate time — after the conflict has been resolved and when both of you aren’t so angry.

Copyright © 1999-2024 Adoptive Families Magazine®. All rights reserved. For personal use only. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

More articles like this