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Please help me learn how to comfort my teenage daughter

My daughter has been with us since she was 16 after her biological parents (who have mental illnesses) were unable to “control” her. They said they didn’t want her anymore and asked that she not communicate with them. She lived with me as her guardian but was upset and longed for biological family. We allowed her to live with her aunt for awhile but again her aunt could not handle her and said that she is no longer welcome in her home and has refused to have contact with her. My daughter is now 19 and her great grandmother just passed away and I took her to the small gathering. She asked to stay the night with her grandmother the first night and it went smoothly. However, the second night her aunt showed up. After she arrived her grandmother turned on her and said she didn’t want her to stay with her anymore. I took her with us to the hotel but she is devastated. She tried so hard to get them to like her and feels completely abandoned. She has went through a day or two of being angry with them and saying that it is their loss but is unable to convince herself for long and goes back to being devastated. It hurts me so bad to see her hurt this much but I don’t know what I can do. If you have any ideas please help me. She is already seeing a therapist and my husband and I along with our other children have told her over and over that we love her and never leave her. I know she loves us too but I think she will always long for acceptance for her biological family.


Finding a way for these kids to reconcile their feelings and relationships to biological families is one of the most difficult things to do.  They’ll feel anger, sadness, fear, and rejection.  And they’ll project all of that onto the people who love them and are trying to help.

Our daughter came to us at age 10, and we adopted her when she was 11.  She’s 15 now, and still dealing with constant questioning of why her biological family didn’t love her enough, why she wasn’t good enough, and this is all so devastating to her, too.  Bio-dad is mentally ill and in prison (again); bio-mom is mentally ill and an addict, and refusing treatment (again). 

We’re glad to hear that your daughter is engaging in therapy because that will help.  It won’t “fix” all of these feelings of anger and abandonment, but it will help her to eventually come to terms with them.

It just takes time and support and a growing maturity.  Studies show that, all too often, all of these pieces won’t click into place until the kid hits their mid-20s.  At that point, if you and your daughter are lucky, she’ll see that the family that she made was the one that supported and loved her where the family she was born into could not.

Best wishes and hang in there!

Posted by georgandpaul on Apr 15, 2019 at 12:43pm

She might benefit from a support group. Or movies re adoption like Instant Family, Blindside, Antwone Fisher Story. Watching them together and discussing may help her understand it was the adults nit the children who were the issues.

Posted by Regina on Apr 17, 2019 at 2:54pm

There’s probably nothing that is going to make her feel better. It sucks.
You say the parents are mentally ill, perhaps if you find out what kinds of mental illnesses they have and how they manifest that knowledge could help her. It won’t make her feel better but as she grows into adulthood if she understands the mental illnesses of her parents she might find it easier to deal with.
I disagree with Regina about those movies. They are all about adoptive parents moving in as saviors and are IMO about adopters more than how a child feels.

Posted by NoraT on Apr 20, 2019 at 3:10am

First, find a therapist who does Trust Based Relational Intervention.  Your daughter has experienced complex developmental trauma. 

Second, besides having complex developmental trauma, she probably has an emotional disorder.  The therapy will help with that.

Third, instead of focusing on the past, help her set goals and work towards a healthy future.

Fourth, I would recommend she avoids seeing her family of origin until she is mentally healthier.  She is most likely re-traumatized every time she visits them.

Fifth, she needs to know the difference between a healthy family vs a dysfunctional family. 

These are a few ideas.  I hope they help.

Posted by David Michael on May 17, 2019 at 5:21am

HI Tommi,

It sounds like you are on the right track if she can at times understand that it is their loss and she is not at fault.

I’d recommend she keep the visits with disturbed family members to much smaller increments - like a couple hours… not overnight stays or days.

Also, if there is a local teen support group for adoptees -I’d think it would be really helpful for your daughter. The more she sees that she is not alone in issues she is dealing with the less traumatized she will be by this.

Posted by Happy Camper on May 17, 2019 at 3:22pm

The young woman in question is a legal adult and the APs cannot choose her therapist or set limits on her contact with her biological family.
My heart aches for both this young woman and the parents who love her, but as for how to comfort her, the sad fact is that she will probably always want to be accepted by her biologically family and there’s nothing anyone who loves her can do about that.
I understand wanting to help her with her pain, but from my point of view, as a FFY, there’s really nothing you can do but be there for her. That doesn’t mean you have to talk about this situation unless she wants to, or try to get her to confide in you more, or try to change anything (you can’t change other people.) I mean just be there for her, quietly and consistently. She is only 19 and the steadiness will really help her, I believe, although it will not console her.

Posted by NoraT on May 18, 2019 at 9:10pm

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