More on What Not to Say
Don't Portray Adopted Kids Like the Media Does!
Be careful that you don't insinuate that adoptive families aren't as good as other families. Realize that the media often portrays birth mothers as teenage runaways and regards adoption as "second-best" parenting. Studies of adoptive kids prove that they are no more problematic than non-adopted children. So, don't form your adoption views on outdated stereotypes.
"Now You'll Get Pregnant!"
Adoptive parents rarely get pregnant after adopting. Only five percent of infertile couples will spontaneously conceive after ending fertility treatments, says author Patricia Irwin Johnston in her book Adoption is a Family Affair! What Relatives and Friends Must Know (Perspectives Press). Besides, it's irrelevant now for parents who've adopted children to grow their families: The child is their own so don't tell them "it's just like having one of your own." Parenting, with all its joys and trials, is parenting.
Want to Know More About Adoption? Ask Later.
Perhaps you're thinking of adopting. If your questions are prompted by obtaining more knowledge about adoption, then make a date or ask to telephone the adoptive parent when his child is not present. You will probably receive more straightforward information privately.
Take a Hint!
Many adoptive parents have been coached on how to reply to tactless questions. If they respond: "Why do you want to know?", "I'll have to think about that one," or "I don't have time to answer this now," or if they use humor to deflect your question, then you've probably invaded their territory. Back off!
"Which One Is Yours?"
With foreign adoptions, the child will probably not resemble the adoptive parent. So don't comment on the striking dissimilarity. Who does the child look like? He looks like his biological family. In the case of a biological and adopted child within the same family, don't ask, "Which one is yours?" They both are, and they're siblings, too.
If you do put your foot in your mouth, don't worry. The adoptive parent will probably not get angry with you, especially if his child is present. Why? It gives the message to the child that there is something bad in asking about adoption and that his parent is annoyed at his adoption. Adoptive parents don't want to sound defensive, curt, or angry; it sets a bad example for their child who needs to learn how to answer his classmates' similar questions.
If you're considering adopting or just looking to become more familiar with the topic, read more:
Adoption is a Family Affair! What Relatives & Friends Must Know (Perspectives Press)
By Patricia Irwin Johnston
Making Sense of Adoption (Harper Paperbacks)
By Lois Melina
Parenting Your Adopted Child: A Positive Approach to Building a Strong Family (McGraw-Hill)
By Andrew Adesman, M.D. with Christine Adamec and Susan Caughman
The Unofficial Guide to Adopting a Child (Wiley)
By Andrea DellaVecchio, MA
Shared Fate: A Theory and Method of Adoptive Relationships (Ben-Simon Publications)
By David A. Kirk
Wesley Davidson lives in Chappaqua, New York. She is an adoptive parent of two and has been asked questions for over twenty years.
Originally published on AmericanBaby.com, August 2006.