Why Adoptees Reject Their Moms

Brunt of Adoptee Anger?

Many moms of adopted children can’t figure out what they’ve done wrong, what makes their children reject them, even though they have literally poured their very souls into them.

This anger may manifest in shouting matches, temper tantrums, refusing to let you hold her hand when walking through the parking lot, choosing the moms of friends as confidantes, zoning out on her iPhone, or refusing to go for a walk with you on Mother’s Day.

It’s downright hard for a mom not to take this rejection personally, but it is absolutely necessary that you don’t—both for the welfare of your child and your own sanity.

If you understand the core reason why your child is rejecting you, it will be easier for you to detach from an emotional response and help your child comprehend the source of her anger and deal effectively with it.

Misplaced Anger

Anger is a scab over a wound, a secondary emotion. In other words, it happens in response to another occurrence, which is pain. No doubt, your child has the anger problem, which manifests in rejection toward you as a mom, but what is the great hurt? You haven’t hurt her! You’ve done everything humanly possible to demonstrate your great love for her.

In reality, the anger is misplaced. Your daughter is not angry at you; instead, she is furious at her birth mother for leaving her behind. No matter how loving the birth mother and the adoption plan, the absence of the birth mother translated to your child as pure abandonment. That is the deep hurt beneath the scab.

Because your child doesn’t understand this dynamic, she lashes out at you, with misplaced anger. The birth mother isn’t around, unless your adoption is open, so you receive the brunt of her anger. Even if your adoption is open, I personally believe adoptive moms get the brunt of the anger.

You may be at the end of your rope, feeling crushed beyond belief by her multiple rejections. Truth be known, your child may wonder what is wrong with her—what is the cause of this overblown anger toward you?

How to Help Your Child

Understanding adoptee loss is the key to helping yourself and your child overcome this common adoption hurdle. Many parents read Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, make notes in the margins, and then give it to the teen to read. This has opened many conversations.

If you can help her understand the source of her anger, then she can begin to manage it through grieving her loss (professional help may be needed here) and going forward toward healthier relationships, with you and others.


33 comments to Why Adoptees Reject Their Moms

  • Cheri- Clearwater Florida

    Thanks, that sure make me feel better. Do they ever grow out of it??

  • Antonio Capaldo

    In my experience of adoption, I realized that these behaviors are the result of the trauma of abandonment. I am increasingly convinced that we must give priority Open Adoptions . A boy adopted, without realizing it, believes it is impossible that his birth mother abandoned him.
    Surely he thinks that ..No condition of indigence or poverty justifies the abandonment of a child. As far as my own experience is concerned I am sure that a child would rather die of starvation or get to know that his parents are in prison, but they did not abandoned him.

    If genocide is a crime against humanity, the abandonment of a child is much more, it calls into question the first ethical principle for our survival: a mother who abandons a child.
    Animals do not do that, or do so only if the little ones are naturally self-sufficient by birth. It is an everlasting torture and I am sure that my son is wondering – in his own confusion – why he did not get what many people were granted.


    • Yes, there are many losses, profound losses, in adoption. It is my belief, however, that there are many “gains.” Gains that outweigh the losses. You are right…even in open adoptions, we adoptees often see the bio parents giving over responsiblity of parenting as rejection. It forms the lens through which we look at life. It must be transformed and it is a lifelong process. It IS possible, however, to grow from all of this. I hope you will be able to give your son some hope, not based on fantasy, but faith-based reality. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jude

    My 8yo daughter shows these signs, and others related to abandonment I think. There is so much anger, and self sabotage as well.. like she doesn’t deserve anything good. I tell her so many many times that we love her no matter what, but she will act out and shove us away, figuratively, so often, then claim it’s we that don’t love her as much. It breaks my heart.

    She is in counseling, but I don’t know if her 8yo mind will be able to really believe it. I fear and cry regularily that she will grow to think the things she says are the reality, when in fact they are so far from the truth. She never ever reaches out to us, and often will retreat, then intimate that she’s separate in our family. I am broken as to what to do. I feel we are doing all things we can, yet there is that gigantic gap that seems too big to bridge.

  • Fairlight

    As an adoptee this only reinforces my belief that adoption very often causes more problems than it solves. Adoption hurt me very much. My anger was not only at my first-mom but also at my adopted mother. My A-mother felt she was my one and only mother and I just needed to accept that. I didn’t. I really hated being adopted.

  • Fairlight

    No Ms. Eldridge is isn’t a quick assumption. I have been an adoptee rights activist for several decades now (I’m 53 yrs. old). I have seen and heard incredibly painful stories from adoptees and first-mothers. As for the anger aspect. My anger and the anger of many adoptees I know isn’t misplaced. We know why we are angry at our adopted parents and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the first-mother….it has to do with the quality of the individual relationships and the fact we are forced to live a lie.

    • Me too….and I’ve got you beat–I just turned 70! Just kidding. Thank you for sharing your interesting perspective. Tell me more about how we adoptees are forced to live a lie?

  • Roy Bard

    Sherrie, is it not possible that some adoptive mothers are not perfect, and that there may be perfectly legitimate reasons for their adopted children to be angry with them?

  • Lisa

    As Roy said, it is possible that some adoptees who reject their mothers do so for the same reasons that non-adopees do – because their mothers are malignant and destructive people.
    And that’s not “reading into the article”. It’s reality.

  • Katie Lund

    I’m a Mom who has 2 adoptive children and the only one I’m angry at is me. My kids have every right to be angry. Who were we to take 2 babies from poor, very young mothers who needed help. We were grandiose in our thinking, unable to have children, and with our white privilege 2 ready for our taking.

    When the time comes for them to be angry I will agree, I will ask for forgiveness, though I will explain I was blind, no, I chose not to see. So while we raise them, we will love them, try to give them what they need. We will do our best to follow the many writings of transracial adoptees and the insights of Daniel Ibn Zayd. Read the insights of http://www.transracialeyes.com

    How powerful the honesty of ‘Fairlight: ‘As an adoptee this only reinforces my belief that adoption very often causes more problems than it solves. Adoption hurt me very much. My anger was not only at my first-mom but also at my adopted mother. My A-mother felt she was my one and only mother and I just needed to accept that. I didn’t. I really hated being adopted.’

    I accept my kids being angry. How can we help them, help us as a family, is to immerse our lives in a culture that is true to who they are, were they come from, where we now need to be. To break down the walls of privilege & be open to our children’s feelings.

    • Love your thoughts! You are rare in your understanding of your children and yourself.

    • Denise

      Katie Lund, your sanctimony is misplaced. Perhaps you adopted out of a sense of white privilege. Don’t assume all other adoptive parents do or did the same. Most adopted because they thought it was the right thing to do. They had love and resources to share. There were abandoned children who needed both. They thought adoption was not only a win-win outcome, they genuinely believed they had a moral obligation to adopt.

      The Zeitgeist now is turning against adoption as the tsunami of children adopted int he 90’s and aughts reach adulthood. Like many adults, they feel dissatisfied with one or more aspects of their childhoods. Our culture foments that dissatisfaction into hatred and condemnation, encouraging angry individuals to nurse and nurture their hatred and sense of victimhood rather than encouraging them to broaden their perspective and seeking to understand and move on. For adoptees, the target of that dissatisfaction-turned-outrage is the adoptive mother, and worse, the very idea of adoption itself.

      If your children wanted contact with their birth families or their birth cultures and you denied them that contact, then, yes, you did them a wrong that should be apologize for and corrected. But don’t assume everyone is like you. Many, many people all over the world who adopted children from other cultures have openly shared that information with their children and encouraged that contact. Those adoptive parents neither deserve condemnation nor should be required to apologize for committing the “crime” of adoption.

      • Dear Kate,
        Interesting post.
        Yes, society is pretty much out in the cold about adoption, but its a heck of a lot better than twenty years ago when I searched for my birth family. There is something very special about meeting birth family. It’s not a threat to adoptive parents. It’s the way we adoptees are wired. I believe it is always best, if possible, for adoptees to search for and meet birth relatives.
        The target of adoptee anger is the adoptive mom…but it is really misplaced anger at our birth moms.
        Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
        Come back soon!

  • Denise

    Firelight states, “As an adoptee this only reinforces my belief that adoption very often causes more problems than it solves. Adoption hurt me very much.” Many adoptee commenters chimed in with their outrage over the very idea of adoption.

    So this is what I say to all these very angry, vengeful adoptees: What should happen instead?

    Should neglected or abused children be left with their negligent or abusive biological mothers because you believe putting them in a safe and loving home would be more damaging?

    Should these children be left in the foster care system forever with the hope that the biological mother may one day shape up and retrieve her children?

    Should a woman who, for whatever reason, cannot or does not want to raise a child be forced to, even if that means the child will grow up feeling all the resentment emanating from his or her birth mom?

    In other words, angry, resentful, ungrateful adoptees, ask yourself seriously, what are the alternatives? Adoption is the outcome of a difficult situation for all involved–the birth mother who, for whatever reason, is not in a position to care for a child, the adoptive mother who, for whatever reason, cannot have a child of her own, and the child who, for whatever reason was born into a thorny and difficult moral dilemma whom everyone is trying to resolve to the best of their ability.

    Cut your adoptive mother some slack. Ever fiber in your body says, “Don’t trust her! Shut her out! She is the nurturing enemy, the untrustworthy interloper!” But no one, and I mean no one, grows up whole and healthy without forming an open, trusting, emotional bond with a primary caregiver. Your birth mom couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. You were given a second change. Don’t squander it.

    So do yourself and your adoptive mom and your birth mom a favor and let yourself love and reciprocate love. The world will be better off for it.

  • Claire Clayton

    My adopted daughter and I were very close until six months after I helped her find and contact her birth mother. She was 34 years old at that time with a husband and two children. Then she rejected me and has been in contact with her birth mother, birth father, birth aunts, etc. and has cut me out of her life. It has been 5 years, and I haven’t been allowed to see or contact her, her husband, or my grandchildren. The emotional pain is unbearable. What can I do?

    • Dear mom through adoption,
      This is an awful story and in my experience, the majority of adoptees don’t respond like this to reunion with their birth families.
      Someone once taught me to pray against the lies she is believing.
      I challenge you to do that.
      Prayer is the most powerful thing you can do, and of course, living in 24 hour compartments, accepting your powerlessness, and knowing and trusting God is at work.
      Blessings to you,

  • Ruth

    I am writing from an African country. My adopted 6 year old girl was found wrapped up in a paper bag. The home that took her believed strongly that institutional homes are not ideal unless there’s no way out. So with my two biological kids and husband we discussed and agreed to adopt a baby girl as we felt the urge to give a child our love, home and siblings. I wonder if this is a worse evil than leaving her at the institution . Despite the emotional upheavals we will go through I think this should not minimise the impact of family our daughter will enjoy. Natural and adoptive parents are not perfect, they make mistakes and a child can be abused and mistreated by a natural or adoption family. So mistreatment and abuse are not mutually exclusive with adopted homes

    • Hi mom from Africa,
      Loving your attitude!
      Yes, you will go through emotional upheavals..and I trust that you will be given wisdom about to handle. A book by the late Dr. Gregory C. Keck is high on my list of recommendations: “Parenting the Hurt Child.” Find it on amazon.
      Thanks for sharing!

  • bubbleslanie

    I am heartbroken that my 16 year old daughter has expressed hatred towards me. She has run away twice, I just read something she wrote about mothers day which read something like happy mothers day to the one who gave birth to me that I will never know, to the one I can’t wait to leave, and to my Nana who is the one who showed me true love and how to love.
    I cannot even begin to express how devastated I am. Can I really have neglected her that much? Could how she feels be reality? I have 3 older (biological) sons, and this is a new experience for me. Sad, disappointed, hurt.

    • Dear heartbroken mama,
      I hear your hurt. Wish I could give you a hug right now.
      Please know that your daughter’s “Preference” for her birth mother over you is really misplaced anger at her birth mother. I know, that doesn’t make it any easier, but perhaps eases the hurt for you?
      I used to get rageful at my mom when I was your daughter’s age. They lived through it, and you will too.
      Are you a member of adoptive parent support group?
      Seek one out!
      That is the best source of encouragement ever.
      Also, you may want to consider buying my book called “Twenty Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed.” I interviewed 20 sets of adoptive parents and their voices with so resonate with you. You will discover that you’re not alone in this journey called adoption.

  • Michelle

    My husband I adopted 2 boys about 14 yrs ago. They were taken from their mom and their dad just gave them up cause he didn’t want to deal with their behavior after he got out of prison. We received them at ages 6 and 7. They had been in the system since they were 1 and 2. He was actually the better parent we were told by DFS.
    We had 4 grown kids and knew these kids just needed a stable place to grow and learn and be encouraged. We were not expecting the screaming, crying, out and out lying and beligourant behavior. We knew it was no cake walk. And every counselor we had seen told us that it may be they are 30 before they realize that you you loved them enough to raise them and try and show them the way through life.
    The older one ran to marines cause we were kicking him out after HS. He was screaming and so angry and stole from us. He refused to be in on time and demanded his way constantly. I lived in fear when my husband traveled. We had tried to talk with them about their birth parents but that made them angrier.
    The younger one left home be fore high school was over cause some other family of his girlfriend stepped in and thought they could do whatever they want. he lived with their daughter who was 16 at the time. He had a free training program for a career he choose and a job in a great place after that. He walked on it all and now is a cook still living with the mother and girlfriend. Her parents divorced right after he moved in.
    I see adoptive kids blaming the adoptees as the bad guys or as if the adoptees just stole them. I see many adoptive parents trying to give kids a home, that’s it. A place to go, to grow and hopefully learn. Yes I think some may be abusive when pushed, cause the kids can push farther than you know. But to some of these kids any restriction of any kind, i.e. Video games, is evil and you can’t tell me what to do.
    I truly believe that if those kids could see the heart of the people who take them in their home to raise them and sacrifice for them, they would see a bigger picture and learn to love and know that most adoptive parents are for them not against them. I hurt for kids like fairlight who can’t see past hurt or how they invisioned how life should be and grow up angry instead of greatful. There are exceptions for severe abuse that should never happen.
    Thank you for this article. It has been 2 years since our young one left and it hurts beyond measure. The rejection is awful. We did try. Michelle

    • Dear Michelle,
      Of course you gave it all you had. You know that, but further and more importantly, God knows.
      It’s such a courageous step to adopt a child. Parents never know what trauma history is being brought into their home until all the things you listed above happen. To your child, acting this way was his normal.
      I can’t imagine the hurt and disappointment.
      I just prayed for you…for God’s comfort to flood you today.

  • Sherry

    My adopted daughter is about to turn 23. She has had an anger issue for about 15 years. She has shut me out completely, but not her Dad. I have taken her to more counselors than I can count, but there has been nothing to resolve her anger towards me. I have poured my heart and soul and being into being a good mother for her, yet she is disrespectful, hateful, and uncaring. Her dad and i divorced when she was 11. That didn’t help at all, but i really have tried everything to rebuild. She rejects me to this day.
    What should i do?

    • I hope you know that your daughter’s anger is not at you. It is misplaced anger….at the birth mother for placing her for adoption and disappearing from her life. I hear your heart and know you must be a great mom. My mom went through the same from me. Give her time and pray. She’s still young. Educate yourself like crazy.

  • Jeannette

    Just began to experience this deep rooted hatred from my 18 year adopted daughter a few months ago. I adopted my daughter as a single parent and I raised her as a single parent. She was loved my me and my entire family she decided to drop out of high school as a senior 5 months prior to graduation. Without any warning as we together was preparing her for college, she just left home with a young man who is a HS dropout, living with his mother. She found her birth mother who has been in and out of prison since the age of 13 and she encourage her not to listen to me but live her life. My daughter decided to follow the life of her birthday mother sleeping around, drugs and alcohol and she hates me. She was raised in the church and knows right from wrong but chooses to do wrong and now, I heard that she has said, she wish I were dead. I sacrificed my life for her and it like, I was living with a stranger. The strange part, she did not show this side of her until she was 18 and talked to her prison, prostitute birth mother. It hurts me deeply but I have no control of her actions since she only contacts me for money which I no longer provides to her. I want my good spirit, loving daughter back.

    • Oh, my gosh. What a horrific story.It is no reflection on the dedicated and loving parenting you gave your daughter.As you know, adoptees have trouble with anger, but know that it is misplaced. The anger directed at you is really anger at her birth mother. I am not a psychologist, but it sounds to me like she might have a personality disorder. My heart aches for you and I hope someday soon that your daughter wakes up to what is good. One suggestion….a friend taught me to pray against the lies. Pray against the lies your daughter is believing and ask Jesus to break their power over her. Hope this helps.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>