Parenting Mistakes Adoptive Parents Make

    “There isn’t a manual or a book in the world that can guide someone to be a perfect
    parent, let alone an adoptive parent which adds another layer to parenting. My adoptive mom had many flaws in parenting me. She wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect for me” – Jessenia Arias 

    I have learned over time as an adoptee/adoption advocate that adoptive parents are put on a pedal stool having to be perfect parents because they have been trusted by their child’s biological parents to love and care for the child, or to give the child “a better life.” Adoptive parents are left with little room to make an error before being put on the chopping block by adoptees and birth parents. What we adoptees and birth parents forget is that adoptive parents are human. There isn’t a manual or a book in the world that can guide someone to be a perfect parent, let alone an adoptive parent which adds another layer to parenting. Adoptive parents divorce, become widowed, have insecurities, go bankrupt, and have their share of sins like anyone else.

    Yes, there are a number of scum bag piece of crap adoptive parents out there. However, when I hear of people speak negatively about adoptive parents as  a whole because they are less than perfect, it hurts my heart to the core because my adoptive mom has been my hero and my role model even through her flaws in parenting me.

    She didn’t buy me, nor did she play into any adoption agency’s coercive methods against birth mothers. What she did do was save my life after my birth mother abandoned me. And no, not even for a second has she ever tried to play the savior or hold it over my head that she saved my life. She gave me the best that she can with what she had. She didn’t have much. Matter of fact, we were poor. My adoptive mom is an adoptee and was a widow by the time I was seven-years-old. She worked three jobs with a second-grade education to care for us. And like any great mother, she did the best she could do to instill values and morals in us that I still live by today. Not once did my adoptive mom think to give me back when she could have, I was her daughter. In her eyes, we were blood.

    But no matter how much my adoptive mom loved me and saw me as her own, she still made plenty of mistakes that adoptive parents can learn from today. Those mistakes did not make her a bad person or bad adoptive parent. It made her human; it made her a mom.

    Below I will I will share a few mistakes my adoptive mama made but has now learned from through us being able to sit down and talk about adoption openly:

    She did not tell me I was adopted at an early age; instead, I found out when I was about 14-years-old from someone outside the family. She was afraid I would be hurt, and she was afraid that my siblings, her biological children, would treat me differently as her siblings did to her with her adoptive family. She did all she could do to protect me, provide for me, and love me.


    What my adoptive mom and other adoptive parents should do is introduce the subject of adoption to the child before they even begin speaking. According to Dr. Paul C. Holinger, author of What Babies Can Say Before They Can Talk, “Long before your child speaks, she is listening – and understanding far more than we used to think.” There is such no such thing as it being too early to read to your child about being adopted. I can’t stress how important it is to start early to make it as normal as possible. Don’t be afraid to tell your child he or she is adopted. There are a plethora of amazingly illustrated children’s books that can help you introduce the subject of adoption. Get started early! Check out this list of Best Selling adoption books for children.

    My mom did not support me wanting to search for my birth family. 

    What I would have wished is that my adoptive mom would have helped me to search or least gave me her blessing to do so. I did not want to hurt her. It was the last thing on my mind I wanted to do. But I had to do this for me. I had to find myself. I am thankful that my adoptive mom provided me with all the documents she had on my adoption when she sat me down and told me that I was in fact adopted. That was the right thing to do. I just wish she had my back when I searched and I was able to talk to her about it. She always teared up when I brought it up, and it caused me to shut down and walk away. It wasn’t until after I reunited with my birth family that we were able to sit down and talk about it. Now we are open as ever which makes me incredibly happy that my mom and I can walk this journey together, and I don’t have to do it alone. We should have had an open line of communication when it came to my adoption story as a child. My story was about me, not her. I know she wanted to protect me like any other parent, but sometimes it can do more harm than good to keep silent. Be supportive even when it is hard to do. Remember that your child’s adoption is about your child.

    My adoptive mom failed to tell the whole truth to protect me

    My adoptive mom feared telling me my story. She did not want to go into details about why or how my birth mom abandoned me. She wanted to protect me. She was very hesitant with the truth, but I will say she was much more forthcoming with the truth than many adoptive parents I know today in closed adoptions. What adoptive parents must remember is that the truth sometimes hurts, but it is something that adoptees need. Let us adoptees be the judge if we can handle it or not. We are stronger than you probably think we are. Being adopted in some what makes you grow up faster than non-adopted folks. It makes you think and take a closer look at relationships, family, sex, adoption, abortion, mental health, etc. all at a young age when one’s peers are thinking about hanging out, going to the movies, dating, and shopping. No matter how hard it can get processing the information, it is something that adoptees need to know and something that adoptees learn to deal with. The only time information should be withheld temporarily is when an adopted child’s life could be endangered.

    My adoptive mom and I spent the entire summer together now that I was back in the States for summer break. We spent a good chunk of time talking openly about some of the mistakes she made parenting me and how they could have been prevented, as well as working on healing from some of the wounds from being adopted. What I realized is that my adoptive mom’s mistakes were not intentional. The majority of them were due to her wanting to protect me as most adoptive parents want to do for their adopted child. What she learned now that I am an adult from us sharing is that my adoption should have been about “me” and not so much her feelings. We all can all agree that adoption is complicated. However, it can become beyond complicated the minute adoptive parents try to take on their adopted child’s life instead of allowing the adopted child to travel their path and discover who they are through the ups and downs.

    I am incredibly thankful my mom, and I was able to sit down and talk about these moments. I will truly cherish her openness and willingness to admit she was wrong even though all she wanted to do was protect me.

    Adoptive parents: what have you learned from your adopted child?

    Adoptees: what are some mistakes your adoptive parents made and how would you like to have had them handle it?

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    Jessenia Parmer
    Jessenia Parmer
    I'm Jessenia. I am an adult adoptee with 10 years of experience advocating and fostering relationships with adoptees, and over five years of experience teaching adoptive parents how to have a successful and genuine relationship with their adopted child.


    1. Yan says:

      The biggest mistake my adoptive parents made was never taking the time to grieve their own infertility. My a-mom recently told me she hadn't had the same "female problems" as her sisters. No, she never had a hysterectomy, but she still couldn't get pregnant! In burying that and not dealing with it, she's denied herself (and her children) an authentic emotional connection. It makes it hard for her to admit that adoption is different than natural family formation, which made my search and reunion much harder on her (and on me).

      • Hi Yan, thank you for sharing that with me. I have had heard many stories from adoptees that have been in the same position are in. It is crucial that (perspective)adoptive parents deal with their infertility issues before adopting. Adopting is NOT the cure to infertility in no way. Building a family through adoption is different than biological. I think adoptive parents go wrong when they try to make themselves believe that it is the same and "all" the child needs is love. There is so much more to it. I am glad you stepped out and decided to search for your family. How has that been for you?

      • Patricia Russell says:

        Bingo! that’s exactly what happened between my mother and me. Even the adoption agency was concerned that she had not bonded with me, but they proceeded anyway. That was in the 50s mind you. There was much ignorance then.

    2. kn says:

      Thank you for your words.

    3. Anonymous says:

      Hello, I was adopted at birth. My adoptive parents told me that I was adopted from a very young age. For as long as I can remember, they often reminded me "you're adopted but that's a good thing and you are happier this way. we really wanted you so you don't have any bad feelings about being adopted – you're really lucky to have grown up in this home with us instead of what could have been”. At times this was comforting. I told my friends, teachers and family those same words. I tried convincing myself that it was how I felt even though I actually felt confused and sad the more I said it. I was so grateful they had told me from a young age, but wished they had asked me how I felt about it rather than telling me. I was not okay with it. I wanted to talk about it but didn’t know how when they would constantly stress how lucky I was to have them and how awful my life could have been if it wasn’t for them. This added to the deep disconnect that build over the years between us.
      Another mistake my adoptive parents made was as I got older (ages 14-18) was to compare my grades, extracurricular activities, body (I am overweight) and social habits to my biological sister that is ten years older than me. I could not make them understand that I was a completely different person from her. I was more social, I was louder, I wasn’t a bad student but I didn’t get straight A’s….this was all very difficult for them to handle after having brought up a quiet, fit, studious and introverted daughter already. I feel the biggest mistake my adoptive parents made were saying in the heat of arguments with me “we should not have adopted you. we wish we hadn’t. you are ruining our marriage and our lives”. These words shook me to my core. I can't explain the pain it made me feel. I vividly remember the arguments in which they were said 10+ years later. I gave up on trusting my adoptive parents around that time. I am now close to 30 years old and have a complicated relationship with them because of these mistakes. I hope that eventually we can have an open dialogue and talk through these things the way you did with your mom!

      • AdoptiveMama says:

        ” I feel the biggest mistake my adoptive parents made were saying in the heat of arguments with me “we should not have adopted you. we wish we hadn’t. you are ruining our marriage and our lives”. ”

        I’m sorry your parents couldn’t see past their own struggles enough to realize that you were/are your own person, and inflicted such emotional pain. Somewhere along the line they forgot to be grateful for both children they were blessed with, and couldn’t figure out how to enjoy all of your own unique personality traits for how beautiful they are. What a shame that they lost out on such a joy. What a shame that you lost out on being raised with the supportive parents that you deserved.

    4. alexxe says:

      This is a great article. You speak with so much wisdom and empathy, realizing that no one is perfect, but still imparting knowledge.

    5. Monica says:

      As an adoptive parent my biggest mistake so far has been taking so long to surrender to my son’s needs. I followed the path I had planned out and I listened to the pressures of society and left him crying at day care and then listened to the school when they said I was the one causing his separation anxiety by being somewhat responsive to his needs. Now after having homeschooled him for 5 years, his cup is beginning to fill, he is beginning to believe that he is worthy. He is beginning to trust I will never abandon him.

    6. Jill Elaine says:

      I adopted my grandson because he was physically, sexually and emotionally abused and neglected. I fought to get him safe. My husband divorced me for it, ( though we’ve raised the boy together and he doesn’t know we’re divorced.) My daughter is in rehab and rarely calls him, he doesn’t know she’s on drugs either. He used to seem angry at me for adopting him. Finally about a year ago, he was 15 then I told him I understand you are angry, but I’m not the one you need to be angry at. If you want to talk about your Mom let me know and we can. He told me no. I was surprised. He’s calmed down since and now has a girlfriend and gets really good grades. I even kept a relationship with the foster family he lived with for over a year. She’s like a second grandma. He doesn’t seem to have any real memories of the abuse. I had him tutored because he was very behind in learning when I got him home. He also went to a program on personal space for overly sexualized children and it was a miracle worker. He still calls my daughter Mommy, I am Mom. One day he will have to learn the truth, I just don’t want him hurt anymore or to believe my daughter’s lies.

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