One challenge adoptive families face is navigating the questions that well-meaning people ask. Here, we share five questions you should never ask of someone who is adopted or of a family who has grown through adoption.
1. IS HE YOURS?
While you might never know some families grew through adoption, other adoptive families are more conspicuous because members are from different races or ethnicities. When a family has visibly grown through adoption, it catches the attention of others. If this is the first adoptive family they have noticed, their curiosity might lead them to start a conversation. Unfortunately, the conversation starter most often used is: Is he yours? While every adoptive family understands that the query is an attempt to sort out the biological situation, the question is almost always asked in front of the child—a child who forms his understanding of the world by what he hears. Such a question can make him believe that biological bonds are stronger. Love is not only born from a biological connection; biology matters far less than love when it comes to creating a strong, familial bond.
Read Related: 5 Steps to Take if You Are Thinking About Adoption
2. WHERE DID YOU GET HER?
I was shocked when I first heard this question. Carrying my Ethiopian son to a booth in a local restaurant, I stopped at a table to say hello to a friend whose mother-in-law was in town for a visit. As soon as he introduced us, her eyes focused like lasers on my baby boy and she asked where we had gotten him. Startled, as it was the first time I had faced an awkward question about our adoption, I answered that our son was Ethiopian. As it turns out, she had friends with grandchildren from Ethiopia. Her intention was sincere; she wanted to build a connection with us. But I couldn’t help but wonder about the impact of a question like that if my son had been just a bit older. It is tempting to want to draw lines from one family to another, but resist the urge to ask intrusive questions just because it satisfies your curiosity.
3. HOW MUCH DID HE COST?
Just like no one buys a baby when a biological child is born, no one buys a baby when a child is adopted. That said, just like with childbirth, there are expenses with adoption. There is also an adoption tax credit that makes adoption more affordable for many families. Every individual adoption is a unique situation that informs what the cost will be for the process. When it comes to money, use the same discretion you would use in asking someone about her salary. If you don’t know someone well enough to ask her how much she makes, resist the urge to ask her how much adoption cost her family.
4. WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS REAL PARENTS?
Many people are most curious about a child’s biological parents. They want to know why they made this choice, and whether you are still in touch with them. This is incredibly personal information that the child should know first and find out from his parents. If he’s still quite young, he obviously can’t yet process it. The rule in our house is that our son is the person who is fully entitled to his story and after he learns it, as the keeper of his story, he can determine who can hear it and how he would like to share it. Many other adoptive families share our approach.
5. DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?
This phrase might be the most dreaded among adoptive families. Well-wishers look at an adoptive child and say this with some admonishment. Most adoptive parents reply: Well, we think we’re the lucky ones, but inside, we are seething. Because, you see, we know that our child experienced a tremendous loss first and that feels like nothing close to luck. If a child is old enough to understand that comment, it can be incredibly damaging to his psyche. Adoption isn’t a way to save someone else. It is simply a viable way to build a loving family.