Adoption is easily misunderstood. I've received countless comments during my life wondering about our family dynamic. These comments are not necessarily insensitive, they just reveal how misguided society is on a completely beneficial and beautiful journey.
The worst comment I've ever received was from a previous boyfriend telling me that parents who adopt children don't love them the same. Luckily, being adopted has always been one of the brightest spots of my identity. I love sharing my story and draw strength from it.
For others, especially adoptees who are younger, have a darker story or just found out, these comments and questions can often be hurtful. I'm here to tell you the best ways to broach this sometimes sensitive topic.
What not to ask: do you know your real parents?
This one's the worst! Let's just cut out the concept of "real parents" altogether. My real parents are the ones who flew across the world and have been my biggest supporters. My real parents are the ones who have shown up to every event and that I celebrate birthdays and special occasions with. They're not the ones who created me.
Instead ask: do you ever wish to discover more about your biological family?
Perfecto! This delicately asks if they're comfortable talking about their history and journey while also factoring in such things as costs and the emotional toll such journeys can take. And there might also not be a mother or father for them to pursue, so keeping it a generic family question prevents any awkwardness!
What not to ask: are those your actual siblings?
Yikes. This one gets easier as you get older, but when you're younger it's hard to wrap this concept around your brain. Asking if someone's brother or sister is related to them just increases the feeling of being different rather than feeling connected. Also, if an adoptee knows that they have a biological sibling, it might make them wonder about them in a public setting.
Instead ask: do you have any siblings at home?
Everyone knows you're basically asking the same question, but it's a lot easier to answer. It also clarifies that you're talking about biological siblings if there are any.
What not to ask: Why’d your parents give you up?
SOUND THE ALARM. However this is worded, it should generally seem unacceptable. I know, I know you're probably just interested and sympathetic in their story, but this just brings up one of the unpleasant truths about adoption. Somebody, somewhere, decided to give up their child. It could've been for a million selfless and/or selfish reasons but being reminded that someone decided on that action is very unpleasant. Two words: Abandonment issues.
Instead ask: I’m sure your adoption story is so special.
This leaves it up to the adoptee. They could simply say yes or thank you, but if they are comfortable with sharing, I'm sure they'll expound on their story. Easy peasy.
What not to say: It’s awesome that you’re adopted, but I’m sure (your parents, family dynamic, the love, etc.) is different.
Well, yes. Every member of my family is completely aware our origins are different. However, the implication is that our family connection is not of the same caliber as a biological family. However, I don't think any adoptee I've ever met felt that there was something lacking or inferior about their family dynamic. Take a minute to think about all of the mentors, parental figures and blended families you know yourself or someone else has.
Instead say: I bet your family is so unique and grateful to have one another.
This opens up dialogue on the differences in families (because there definitely are some), but it stresses the positives of being in an adopted family.
Do not say: I don’t think I could ever adopt, it seems so hard.
It's true, adopting isn't for everyone. There is a lot of red tape, emotions, and money involved in the process. But it's so worth it. Imagine finding a child out of the millions that already exist on the planet that enhances your family or your relationship in such a profound way. Childbirth is hard. Parenting in general (so I hear, sorry I love you mom and dad) is tough. Hospitals are expensive. But very few ask a healthy couple trying to get pregnant wondering if it's worth the difficulties or expense.
Instead say: your parents are so strong.
Yes, they sure are.
For those who have ever considered it or for the couples that are struggling with fertility issues, I urge you to consider adoption. We need to end the stigma that adoption is plan B or last resort when you can't have children of your own. Because those children you adopt are your own. They might not have entered your life in the same way, but the overwhelming love and gratitude you receive are the same.