When you become adoptive parents, it sometimes seems like your adoption process is up for discussion with everyone — family, friends and even strangers. Whether or not you’re comfortable discussing your adoption story, you’ll may get some awkward and insensitive questions from those who are unfamiliar with adoption. So, how do you answer them?
While you never have to discuss your family adoption if you’re not comfortable doing so, answering some of these questions with polite and informative answers can go a long way to further educating the public about the realities of the adoption process.
Here are some ways you can address some of the questions you receive:
1. “Are you their real parents? Which is your real child?”
When people ask you this, kindly explain that all of your children are yours, and by using the word “real,” they’re implying that adoption is not a normal way to create a family. While you can inform them the words “adopted” and “biological” are more accurate, you may make it clear that they don’t need to worry about using these labels — because all of your children are “real” and part of your family, no matter whether they share your DNA or not.
2. “Where did they come from?”
This is a common question for families who adopt transracially. Unfortunately, when a non-white child is adopted by white parents, many people automatically assume they were adopted from another country, despite the fact that the United States has a variety of diverse races and ethnicities within its borders.
How specific you want to get in response to this question is up to you. You can simply respond “From the U.S.” or even get specific about what state or city your child was adopted from. While people’s assumptions can be frustrating, it may be best to answer politely and succinctly and then change the subject.
3. “There are so many kids waiting in foster care/orphanages. Why didn’t you adopt one of them instead of a baby?”
While it can be tempting to respond to parents who have biological children with, “Why didn’t you?” you can instead take this opportunity to educate them about the differences in the adoption processes. Explain to them that, ultimately, you chose the adoption process that was best for your family. No particular process of adoption is superior to another, and whatever way a family is created is perfect.
4. “Aren’t you worried that their ‘real’ mom will want them back or they’ll want to meet her?”
These kinds of questions are typical from people who don’t understand how the adoption process works and how most adoptions today are open. It can be hurtful to hear this incorrect language, so make sure you explain the difference between an “adoptive” and “biological” mother. If you’re comfortable doing so, explain how the open adoption process works. Your child will grow up knowing they are adopted and potentially having some sort of contact with their birth mother. Explain that if they desire to meet her one day, you’ll support them 100 percent, and you know that this part of their history is important to their identity. While there may be challenges along the way, explain that by being open about your child’s history, they’ll have a healthy relationship with this part of their identity.
5. “Why did their mother give them away?”
People who don’t know much about adoption tend to use this kind of outdated language, so it’s a great opportunity for you to introduce adoption-positive language, like “place” or “put up” for adoption. As far as answering this question, it’s a very sensitive topic and, to respect your child’s birth mother’s privacy, you can give a vague answer like, “She wasn’t prepared to be the parent she wanted for her baby.” If people press for more details, remind them that you want to respect her privacy and can’t answer in more detail.
Remember, if someone ever asks you a tactless question that you don’t want to answer, you can always respond with “Why do you want to know?” or “I’ll have to think about that one,” or deflect the question with humor. If you use these subtle deflections, people will usually get the hint and drop the subject. If they don’t, simply tell them you’re uncomfortable talking about something that’s so personal to your family.
If your child is present when people ask these questions, it’s important to respond positively. Avoiding talking about their adoption in front of them may lead them to think you’re embarrassed or ashamed, so communicate your happiness and confidence, even if it’s something you’d rather not discuss.
A great way to prepare for these unwanted questions is by communicating with your adoption professional or other adoptive parents. They can provide you advice on how to answer insensitive questions in a positive way and educating others about adoption in a healthy way.
Remember, there are many people in the world who don’t know much about adoption. While their questions may seem rude or insensitive to you, they likely don’t understand why what they’re asking is wrong. By educating them about adoption, you can help spread awareness about this beautiful way of building a family.