Helping Adopted Children Cope With Grief and Loss
Many children in foster care have experienced traumatic separations and losses. The emotions elicited by these traumatic experiences are rooted in underlying grief, which may complicate their adjustment to the newly formed adoptive family unit. Children's response to grief may vary, depending on their age and stage of development. A child's grief may be internalized as anxiety, depression, and/or guilt, or it may be externalized in acting-out behaviors that negatively affect day-to-day functioning and relationships. Validating the reality of loss in adoption and creating a safe space for children to express their feelings are some of the first steps that adoptive parents can take to guide them through a healthy grieving process.
Many adoptive parents can navigate the grief journey with their children and help them overcome any specific adoption-related challenges during childhood and adolescence. To enhance parents’ efforts, research has long recognized the benefits of adoption-competent services to address the effects that abandonment, abuse, separation, and trauma may have on children and youth who have been adopted. Accordingly, child welfare professionals play a critical role in helping children gain an understanding of their history and process it through grief to form safe attachments to their adoptive families. The following resources highlight specific examples of services and practice approaches aimed at supporting adopted children and strengthening adoptive families.
3 Resources About Coping With Grief and Loss
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