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Adopted children may need extra support during divorce

Divorce brings about fear and uncertainty for nearly all children. Seeing the family unit they've always known break apart can leave kids wondering where they belong. They're moving between two households, perhaps living by two sets of rules and likely feeling some guilt that the break-up is their fault.

Those feelings can be magnified for adopted children. Kids who perhaps down deep didn't feel they were part of the family may wonder what the divorce means for them and even if they'll be "sent back."

Many adopted kids remember the loss of one or both parents, sometimes in a traumatic way. They may have been shuttled from one foster home to another. The belief that parents will get rid of them if they misbehave or are inconvenient to have around can endure for years, no matter how reassuring their adoptive parents are. Divorce can bring these fears to the forefront.

If you're a divorcing parent with adopted kids, it's essential to be aware of these feelings. However, whether your family consists of biological or adopted kids or (as is common) a combination of the two, there are a few important things to remember:

-- Provide a stable environment, with as few changes as necessary for your kids.

-- Enforce the same rules, regardless of whose house the kids are in.

-- Don't drag the kids into your conflicts or force them to take sides. Support your spouse's decisions and refrain from speaking poorly of him or her, no matter how you really feel.

-- Remember that your kids are watching how you handle the divorce. This is your chance to model how to deal with adversity.

It's natural for adoptive parents to have an additional source of guilt during a divorce -- letting down the biological mother/parents. You may believe that you failed to live up to the picture of the happy couple you were when you adopted your child.

However, in many cases, couples ultimately choose divorce to be happier. Having two happy parents living separately is usually far better for kids than having parents living under the same roof who are constantly battling or not speaking to one another.

If your children (adopted or biological) are having difficulty amid the divorce, it may be worthwhile to find a therapist who can help them process their feelings. Your New York family law attorney can likely provide recommendations.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "Divorce With Adopted Children," Jan. 17, 2017

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