Parental divorce can bring up all sorts of feelings of insecurity in children. They’re losing the family structure they’ve always known. They often blame themselves for their parents’ break-up — particularly if they’ve been the subject of some of their parents’ arguments in the past. Children’s first instinct is to think about how any change will affect them. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a child to worry first and foremost about how a divorce will impact their life.
When divorcing parents have an adopted child, those insecurities can increase exponentially. Some adopted kids already have feelings of not completely “belonging” in their families. If an adopted child is of a different race or ethnicity than their adoptive parents, they may be constantly reminded by people they encounter in public that they don’t look like their parents.
If a child was adopted as a baby and hasn’t known any other parents, they may be less likely to feel threatened by the prospect of their parents splitting up than a child who was adopted when they were older. Many older adoptees have experienced trauma with one or both birth parents. They may have lived in a series of foster homes before being adopted. It’s only natural for them to be frightened as they see what they thought was their permanent family splitting apart and to wonder where they’ll fit in.
Adoptive parents can feel an added layer of guilt about their break-up. They may believe that they’re letting down the child they promised to raise together. They may also feel like the image of the happy couple they presented to the adoption agency and/or birth mother was a sham (even though it was likely very much real — at the time).
Divorcing parents should reassure their adopted children that the split will have no impact on their love for them and that both parents will remain active in their lives. If an adopted child came from a conflict-ridden home, you have the opportunity to model something better for them. You can show them that two people can realize they can no longer live together yet still work together with mutual respect and courtesy and be good parents.
This starts with jointly crafting a custody agreement and parenting plan that focus on your children’s well-being. Your family law attorney can help you do this.