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3 Differences in Having an Adopted Child vs. Biological Child

Parenting by Adoption vs. Biological Parenting

There comes a time when many would-be parents are at a crossroads in their family-building journey. While debating their options, they may wonder: “What’s the difference between an adopted child vs. biological child? What should I know about choosing adoption over biological children?”

The good news is that, in many ways, parenting an adopted child is not at all different from parenting a biological child. However, adoption is a unique experience with a lifelong impact on adopted people and their families, and adoption will shape some of your parenting experiences.

There are many things to consider when it comes to choosing between adoption or biological children. In this article, we’ll focus on a big one: the differences between biological and adoptive parenting. It’s crucial for you to be educated about the challenges ahead before choosing adoption; you’ll need to be ready to fulfill an adopted child’s unique needs before you ever bring them home.

Fortunately, American Adoptions is here to help. Our trained specialists are always happy to answer your questions about the difference between an adopted child and biological child — and help you determine which path is right for your family. Contact us online here.

In the meantime, read on to learn more about the three differences between parenting by adoption vs. biological parenting: biology, belonging, and birth parents. 

1. Your child won’t share your DNA

One of the biggest differences between biological and adoptive parenting? The fact that adopted children are not genetically related to their parents.

For the most part, this will not change how you parent your child, but it can alter your parenting experiences in a few ways: 

  • Your child may not share your appearances: This could impact your child’s needs — for example, your child may need glasses even though you and your spouse both have perfect vision, or your child may require different hair care methods because of his or her racial background. Physical differences may also call attention to your family in public, especially if you are a multiracial family. Pay attention to all of your child’s unique needs, and learn how to model appropriate responses to any unwelcome adoption questions and comments you may receive.
  • Your child may have different personality traits: Genes don’t just impact physical appearance, and your child may not share your family’s interests, talents or personality traits. It is important to expose your child to many different experiences and opportunities, and encourage them to pursue their own interests and talents.
  • Your child may have different medical needs: Your child may inherit genetic conditions that are not in your family’s history. It is important to receive as much medical information as you can about your child and his or her birth family so you will be prepared to meet any medical needs your child may have. In addition, because you did not experience pregnancy with your child, he or she may not have received the same prenatal care you would have provided. This can lead to additional differences in your child’s health and medical care. Note: If you work with American Adoptions, you will get to set your preferences for personal and medical history in an adoption opportunity.

As you consider adoption vs. biological children, remember: Just because a child shares your genes doesn’t mean you will look alike, have the same personality or that your child will be 100 percent healthy. Genetic relationships are often a roll of the dice, so you may find yourself facing similar challenges as adoptive parenting, even if your child is related to you!

It’s also normal to worry about what choosing adoption over biological children will mean for your relationship with your sons and daughters. In fact, many adoptive parents ask, “Can you love an adopted child as much as a biological one?”

The answer is undeniably yes. Here at American Adoptions, we know it’s not blood that makes a family — it’s love. When you finally hold that child in your arms, you will instantly forget that they’re not biologically related to you; you’ll love them more than you can imagine.

Take it from Scott, who had two biological children before adopting a child with our agency:

“In the back of my head, I wondered, having had biological children, what I was going to feel like toward Ethan. Sue and I have basically said to each other a few times that he doesn’t ever seem like he was anything but our child. It seems like he’s always been ours.”

2. Your child will have a unique self-esteem and identity journey

An adopted child has a unique story of how they came into your family — and that will impact their self-esteem and identity development as they grow up.

Because your child does not have an automatic biological link to your family and may not share your physical traits, personality type, talents and interests, he or she may be more likely to struggle with identity and self-esteem issues. Some adopted children also struggle to relate to their non-adopted peers, many of whom have more information about their histories and family background.

Adoptees are also naturally curious about their birth family and where they came from. A major difference between adoption vs. biological parenting is that your adopted child will ask questions about their birth parents and want to get to know them. This can bring up unexpected emotions of jealousy and sadness for adoptive parents, but remember that it’s not a reflection of your role as “Mom” or “Dad.”

Challenges with identity and self-esteem are most likely to surface during adolescence, when children tend to become more focused on who they are as individuals. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate your child’s adoption story from the moment you bring them home. Highlighting that adoption is a beautiful, normal way to bring a child home will help to instill pride in your child from the very start and minimize any self-esteem issues they may have.

Need proof? Read the story of adoptee Diana, who grew up in a loving open adoption:

“My parents told our adoption stories from the time my brother and I were infants, so it was a normalized and positive thing. They talked about our birth parents with love. All of our family members welcomed everything about adoption, and therefore us.”

3. Your child will have another set of loving parents — and likely share a relationship with them

Here’s another major difference between parenting by adoption vs. biological parenting: Every adopted child has two sets of parents — adoptive and birth parents. As adoptive parents, you are your child’s family, and you have sole rights and responsibilities to your child.

However, your child’s birth family played an important role in helping to create your family, and they will continue to impact your child’s experiences as an adoptee, as well as your experience as parents.

Most adopted children want to know their birth parents’ reasons for choosing not to parent. Your child may struggle with feelings of grief and loss for their birth family, even if they were adopted as an infant. It is often easier for children to understand their birth parents’ choices and to process feelings of grief and loss in open adoption.

Open adoption is beneficial not only for adopted children, but also for their adoptive and birth parents. Studies show that most adoptive and birth parents are happy with their semi-open and open adoption arrangements. However, like with any relationship, there may be challenges from time to time. As your relationship with your child’s birth family evolves, always focus on your child’s best interests and communicate openly and honestly about your expectations for the relationship. 

When considering having an adopted child vs. a biological child, don’t forget to factor birth parents into the equation. Odds are, you and your child will have a relationship with those birth parents for years to come, and it will be your responsibility to maintain a healthy open adoption relationship on your child’s behalf.

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Still struggling to decide between having an adopted child vs. a biological child? American Adoptions encourages you to do your research. Adoption can be a beautiful family-building journey, but it’s only one you should embark on when you’re truly ready to embrace the differences between biological and adoptive parenting — and take the steps to do what’s best for your adopted child.

Want to learn more or start your adoption process? Contact our agency online today.

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