Things You Should Avoid Saying When Discussing Adoption
Start writing a post

As an Asian-American adopted by white parents, I've had to battle with coming to terms with my Japanese and Chinese heritage and cultural identity, as well as my adopted identity. There was a very small population of adopted kids in my elementary school and high school classes, so a lot of the kids understandably didn't truly know how to talk about the topic of adoption around me. There were certain phrases that they would say that irked me one way or the other, and I never knew why. At the end of high school, I made an adopted affinity club, where we talked about the different phrases that we all communicatively agreed were offensive, hurtful or could be phrased better. We discussed how reinforcing positive language around adoption may make the topic seem less isolating, foreign to others, and more normal overall. So, here is a list of 5 things you probably should avoid saying when talking to someone who's adopted, and/or discussing the topic of adoption in general. If you've never been in either of these prior scenarios, then consider this a learning moment!

1. "Who are your real parents?"

By saying this, it makes it sound as if someone's adoptive parents aren't their legitimate parents. So-- does this mean that your adoptive parents are 'fake parents'? Growing up with two Caucasian parents as an adopted Asian child, I already felt enough that I didn't belong. I loved my parents but I wanted to look like them like all my other friends in elementary school and preschool did. So, when someone asked me a question regarding where or who my real parents were, it made me feel more isolated and ashamed that I was adopted. A positive substitute for "real parents" is "birth parents'.

2. "Why don't you look like the rest of your family?"

Ok-- saying this is in the first place may not be the best way of going about what you're trying to really say. Sure, we all sometimes see someone who doesn't look anything like their parents. In these cases, the person you're asking may be adopted, but also may very well be blood-related to their parents, which would be awkward as well. In the case that they are adopted, this question may make them feel uncomfortable and further isolated. If someone doesn't know the person they're asking this question to very well, the best option would just be not to ask. I know that I'd personally like to blend in, and not be pointed out as "that adopted girl" or "that girl with white parents." But, if someone insists to know the answer to this question, they could ask politely "I was just curious- do you happen to be adopted?" And maybe add something positive after that such as, "- if so, that would be really cool!" However, even this may make an adoptee uncomfortable, so tread lightly. Every adoptee is different, each at their own level of acceptance. Personally, since I've had a long battle with the reality of me being adopted, and emerged grateful about and content with it, this type of question would not be too uncomfortable. However, I'd rather be the first to open up to someone about adoption rather than someone asking or confronting me about it. If someone has a friend they think is adopted, they should wait until the potential adoptee mentions it before they start asking more questions.

3. Making a joke that someone (who's not adopted) is adopted.

I'm sure we've all heard the stories or seen on television where an older sibling tells their younger sibling that they're adopted as a joke. This "joke" is used cruelly to make the younger sibling feel as if they're not a real part of the family. But this is not the reality for many adopted people. Even though I'm adopted, for example, I don't feel any less part of my family than any of my friends do with their families. But this joke and its connotations make kids afraid of being adopted from a very young age, which can cause them to have a skewed perspective of adoption as well. Therefore, when these kids are talking to peers who are adopted, they may make the adopted feel guilty or bad for being adopted, since in these kids eyes, "being adopted" is their worst nightmare.

4. "What happened-- why were you given up?"

Other ways to phrase this would be to substitute 'given up' with 'put up (for adoption),' 'given away,' and 'abandoned.' Using these words can make adoption sound more dramatic, traumatic, and negative than it is (and it really isn't any of the previously listed.) In many cases where a child is placed for adoption, the birth mother just cannot support the baby and needs to find him or her a new home. The birth parents most likely loved their child, but just couldn't support him or her. Saying that a child was "given up" or "abandoned" creates a negative, pitiful scenario around the often positive experience that is adoption. Instead of using these terms, one can consider using the phrase "choosing adoption" or "place a child for adoption" or "make an adoption plan." Promoting positive language around adoption will make the subject less uncomfortable for adoptees and others alike. I think opening this conversation is very important and crucial, as the world may need to begin being more open to adoption, as a current issue that we are facing (in developing countries) is overpopulation. Adopting kids from countries such as India and China, where birth rates are highest, may be a key solution to this problem! For this to happen, we first need to start positively talking about the subject!

5. "Oh, I'm so sorry."

Something I've always been puzzled by is why when I tell people I'm adopted, I often receive pitiful comments and apologies. While this response may stem from people being uncomfortable or not knowing what to reply, I just never understood why adoption had such a bad societal stigma. I never thought being adopted was a bad thing-- being adopted has only given me more opportunities in life. My birth parents were both 18 when they had me, and they were not even together at the time; I doubt they could have given me the education, worldly experiences, and other opportunities that my adoptive parents have given me. I'm grateful that my birth parents were so selfless that they made the decision of choosing adoption rather than raising me as their own. They realized they couldn't give me a full, opportunity-rich life, and wanted me to have just that. So when people apologize to me, it makes me feel as if it's bad to be adopted, where in reality, I can't be more thankful that I am!

Promoting a positive discourse around adoption will make adoptees feel less alienated within their families and also within society. Adoption is beautiful, and adopted families are as legitimate as families who did not adopt. This topic is really close to my heart, so if anyone has any comments, questions, or more, please feel free to reach out to me via email: emreynol@usc.edu. Keep the positive language goin'!

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Being a pharmacy technician never held as many risks as it does now. Exposure too hazardous conditions were little to none, and garbing up was only conducted in IV compounding. But, now, in order to give nurses the medications they need to help their patients, they need us, pharmacy technicians.

Keep Reading... Show less

With no sign of the pandemic going anywhere, brides and grooms who planned to be married in 2020 are forced to opt for plan B — if not plan C or D. While some are downsizing their in-person weddings to meet coronavirus guidelines and state restrictions, others are choosing to cancel theirs until further notice and some, well, they're embracing the virtual "I do."

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending a Zoom wedding for my friend and fellow editor and writer, Kristin Magaldi, and the short-but-sweet ceremony left me in happy tears (surprise surprise). In order to get the scoop on what exactly went into planning a virtual wedding, I asked Kristin to share her best tips so other couples know exactly how to have a Zoom wedding in case they're looking to lean into the video chat vows, too.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

11 Reasons Why Getting A Cat Is The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Cats may mess up your puzzles but they'll always love you unconditionally — as long as you have some catnip, that is.

Scout Guarino

Alright, everyone, it's time to stop spreading the rumor that all cats are mean, aloof, and hate everyone. Like dogs, each cat has its own personality and tendencies. Some like a lot of attention, some like less — each person has to find the right cat for them. As for me, my cats Bienfu and Reptar have seen me at my worst, but they've also helped pull me out of it. They're a constant in my life and they give me the strength to get through the day in spite of my depression, and there's even scientific evidence to support it!

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Risen Wang on Unsplash

Maybe it was the quarantine months that sent you on a quest to finally find a workout routine that works for you, or maybe it was the lack of routine in the world that inspired you to change your habits or -for some- keep them and make an effort to maintain your health. If gyms were not already evolving with the new needs of the 21st-century gymgoer, they are undoubtedly evolving now with the lifestyle mindset that Covid-19 has left many of us with — a desire for a plan for a positive change seeing that tomorrow is not guaranteed.

The experience that an individual gets out of going to the gym should feel worth their time, energy, and should meet their specific fitness journey goals. If you do not already have a reason to go to the gym, here are ten genius effective implementations that will inspire even the couch-iest potato.

Keep Reading... Show less
Disney

I've always been a huge Disney villain fan — whether it was for their cryptic one-liners, enviable outfits, or sidekick banter. Some of the most iconic lines from cinematic history have been said by the characters we love to hate and occasionally dress up as once a year.

The fear-mongering Gaston I now find hilariously cringe-worthy is now charming and oftentimes considered by fans as rightfully justified in his actions. Die-hard fans of the Disney villain fan club claim alternate egos in their favorite evil characters, adopting their hilarious witticisms into everyday life.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Characters From Your Childhood That Combated The Mental Health Stigma

We deserve to see people like us on the big screen just as much as you do.

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Growing up with a neurodevelopment disorder and mental illness, it's easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world. It is not common to look around and see someone that experiences situations similar to the ones you endure. Even if you do come across a person that is also perceived to be "different" in the eyes of society, the negative connotations instilled in everyday life are quick to silence your voice and knock you down before you have a chance to realize that who you are is more than okay--it's normal. This is a big reason why anything that brings understanding and shines a light on what people with neurodevelopment disorders and mental illness go through on a regular basis comes around a sense of relief and happiness fills the body.

In light of this, I went on a hunt to find characters in television and cinema that accurately portray the complexities of developmental disorders and mental health.

Keep Reading... Show less

Anyone who goes to Panera Bread will tell you that their mac and cheese is to die for. If you're a huge fan of their mac and cheese, you won't believe the new recipe they're coming out with!

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Epic Activewear Deals Every Leggings-Lover Needs To Know About From Nordstrom's Biggest Sale

Wearing my pleather Alo leggings till someone physically removes them from my body.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not an athletic person, at all. Since junior high school, I've been happily cheering my friends on at their football games and soccer matches from the sidelines as long as I could go home to my yoga mat and spend Sunday mornings at Pilates with my mom's friends.

Weekends are often spent in my casual wear, from the second I throw them on for morning meditation through running errands and evening walks. No, I won't be running a marathon or joining my friend's volleyball league anytime soon.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

I Asked My Boyfriend His Opinion On Liking Other Girls’ Pictures, And, Spoiler Alert, It's Cheating

"When you get into a relationship and you're in love, you have to realize that liking photos is for the single lifestyle."

Ladies, listen up. If you are in a relationship with a guy and he is liking other girls' pictures on social media, then it's a red flag. A man who can look at someone else and show interest by liking it means he doesn't care about your feelings AT ALL.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Luxury Fashion Buys Your Bank Account Couldn’t Justify Till This Year’s Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

In case you needed another reason to get the Prada sunnies you've been eyeing all year.

Since I can remember first flipping through my older cousin's fashion magazines as an 8-year-old, I've always had several luxury items on my wish list of items I knew I'd never have, but loved to fantasize about.

As I grew into financial independence later in life, the list grew longer, but the ways in which I could toy with my grocery or travel budget for a month to make room for something I really wanted made the items on it more attainable. Even then, I will (virtually) visit an item online several times in the span of a year to test if I still like it months after eyeing it, and to see if by any chance it may have gone on sale.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

10 Curvy Women Of Color On Instagram Who Inspired Us All To Take More Confident Lingerie Selfies

Learn to embrace your body and stop comparing yourself to the "beauty" standard with the help of these beautiful models and bloggers.

It's not every day that you scroll on your timeline and see a body that resembles your own. With a beauty standard that has conditioned the minds of society to exclaim confidence!

When a fuller figure posts on social media — as if it's an extreme act of bravery to show yourself off if you're not under a size 6 — it's about time we take back our power and learn that we are enough just the way we are.

Keep Reading... Show less

First and foremost, shame on you for encouraging the patriarchy and sexism as you police a female's clothing choices. You cannot control our bodies, but what you can advocate for is public health and safety. This includes demoralizing rape, slut-shaming, and protecting society from illness.

Keep Reading... Show less

Picture this, we're settling into our date, the conversation is flowing, we're ordering drinks, laughing, and then it happens... the job convo.

Him: "So what do you do?"
Me: "I'm a dating and relationships editor."

Keep Reading... Show less

TikTok was banned by the president, but Instagram is here with its newest feature called Reel. Many of us are still wondering why TikTok was being banned in the first place. Was it all the dangerous TikTok trends? It was because of a security concern, but not in the way you might think.

TikTok is owned by Dancebyte, which is a China-owned company. Basically, just like any other app, TikTok collects the user's data. The main question to ask yourself when investing in any app or marketing tools who will be owning my data? So yes, China currently owns all the TikTok user's data worldwide.

Keep Reading... Show less

- I have extremely sensitive skin, which is why I have always resorted to a plant-based organic beauty line such as Radha Beauty.

- Radha Beauty won me over years ago when I was looking for organic skincare brands.

- I was so excited to see they launched a new line incorporating USDA organic rosehip oil, so when their PR team sent me some, I could not have been more thrilled.

- After a week of using the products, my face felt as smooth as a baby's, looked more glowy than ever, and even cured some of my summer sunburn.

Radha Beauty isn't just a best-selling beauty brand on Amazon — it's a USDA-certified organic beauty brand I live by, and anyone who knows me knows I am all about holistic wellness.

Typically, it only takes three days for me to tell if a skin product is working or not because I have extremely sensitive skin. It's also why I have always stuck by plant-based organic beauty lines such as Radha Beauty.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments