Building confidence is important for all children, as they discover who they were created to be! However, confidence is especially important for adopted children as the process of finding their identity can make them vulnerable to low self-esteem. Two components that play a role in identity formation are genetics and family dynamics. For adopted children, this often means questioning why they were placed for adoption, what became of their birth family, whether they have biological siblings, if and/or how they resemble their birth family, etc. When these questions go unanswered, it can leave adopted children with an incomplete sense of self, which can lead to low self-esteem.
So, what can parents do to raise confident adopted children? Luckily, there are lots of ways to make your child feel appreciated and teach them to love themselves. Self-esteem boosts can be part of any adoptive family’s routine and adopted children can grow up to be confident and resilient adults. Here are 5 ways to start:
1. Respect Your Child’s Birth Story
Your child’s birth parents have contributed significantly to who your child is and they should be an important and respected part of your child’s story. Adoptive parents should refrain from passing judgement on how their child came into care and instead celebrate positive traits that can be attributed to their birth parents. For example, if your child has soulful eyes or luscious hair, recognize that as a gift from their birth parents. If you know that your child was placed in care because their birth parents didn’t have the resources or ability to care for them the way they thought your child deserved, praise them for making that difficult decision out of love. And if you don’t know many details about your child’s birth story, support their desire to learn more by researching information together. If their birth parents can’t be found, learn more about their birth country and what it would have been like while your child was in care.
2. Seek Out Diversity
In our world, popular culture often includes references to biological—usually white and heterosexual—families and these types of families are considered the norm. Fortunately, recent cultural movements have highlighted the importance of cultivating and celebrating diversity. Your child is different from your biological family, and your family is different from other families your child knows. If you teach your child to celebrate diversity, learning that their story is different won’t make them feel excluded. Surround your child with racially and culturally diverse children and nontraditional families. Inclusivity will give your child a sense of belonging while illustrating that differences should be celebrated.
3. Give Your Child Choices
Allowing children to make choices builds confidence in their judgment. And the opportunity to decide their preferences helps them develop a sense of identity. As an adoptive family, your child may not always share your preferences. Expose your child to a variety of choices and encourage them to pursue their individual interests. Allow them to decide what food they like to eat, what clothes they like to wear, and what activities they like to do. Within reason, you should be ready to support the choices your child makes. By supporting their preferences, you can build confidence in their emerging identity.
4. Celebrate Your Child’s Strengths
When somebody believes in you, you begin to believe more in yourself! So, help your child explore their strengths. Find something they are good at and invest time and energy on it, because that’s what we do when things matter to us. Ask them to teach you about things they know and praise them on what they do best. Give them an opportunity to feel that they are better at this one thing than anyone else in their family or their circle of friends. Teach them that it’s okay to feel proud of themselves and let them know that you feel proud of them, too.
5. Be Willing to Work on Your Parenting Skills
Your confidence probably has a lot to do with your attachment style and sense of felt safety. Parents are likely to derive their parenting style from the way they were raised, but this isn’t always ideal. If parents take time to understand how their attachment styles influence their parenting style, they can discover more effective ways to understand and meet their child’s needs. Let your child know how important they are by being willing to work to be the best parent you can be.
Confidence is a shield we can give our kids as they grow up and find their place in the world outside of their immediate family. If you want to learn more about encouraging a strong and resilient identity for your child, consider enrolling in First Family Heritage Search, a 2-hour class about understanding and honoring your child’s birth story.