Monday, November 26, 2012

Dear Family, Friends, Neighbors, Co-Workers: What To Say, and What Not to Say, When You Learn Someone You Know is Adopting

When someone announces he/she is adopting, it's a BIG deal.

Adopting is a huge step in a person's life.     It's scary, it's confusing, it's bittersweet, it's exciting.  

I dare to make this comparison:  it's like learning you are pregnant (or that you impregnated someone, for any male readers out there). 

There are so many unknowns, so few certainties.

So, here's what you can say when someone drops the adoption news on you:

---"How exciting!  I'm so happy for you!"
---"I can't wait to plan your baby/child shower!"
---"That's great!  What do you anticipate that journey looking like?"
---"You will be a great mom/dad."

What not to say:
---"Why?  Can you not have your own kids?" (the adoptist)
---"Have you tried IVF?" (the adoptist, round II)
---"Are you sure that's a good decision?" (the pessimist)
---"Isn't adoption really expensive?" (the nosy)
---"Don't all adopted kids have problems?" (the worrywart)
---"You'll get pregnant as soon as you adopt, I bet!" (the optimist)
---"Aren't you scared the birth parents will try to get the child back?" (the pessimist, round II)
---"Oh!  Any child would be so lucky to have you as his/her mom/dad!"  or "There are so many needy children who need good homes!" (the stereotype-lover)
---"Awww!  Are you going to get one of those little Black babies from Africa?" (the optimist-gone-wrong)

Let me assure you:
---I don't know of a single adoptive parent who didn't/doesn't take adoption seriously.
---I don't know of a single adoptive parent who hasn't struggled in some way in their journey to choosing adoption, adopting, or parenting adopted children.
---Adoption isn't second-best to having biological kids.   It's just different.
---Adoption is life-altering, but it can be wonderfully rewarding.

Before you speak,
take a deep breath
and think about how you would want someone to respond to your pregnancy news...

What if you announced a pregnancy, for example.  

It'd be best for your family member/friend/neighbor/co-worker not to cite stats on how many pregnancies end in miscarriage, or how likely it is that the child could have a certain disease or condition, or make comments about unsightly stretch marks and weight gain, or talk about how horrible childbirth is.     It's best not to ask the nitty-gritty details of the night conception occurred or ask if the pregnancy was intentional or not.   It's best not to ask about the person's readiness to become a parent.

So when someone you know announces he/she is adopting:

Just smile.

Say something nice, non-threatening, and non-nosy.

If he/she wants you to know more, you'll know.  

If you want to know more, do some research on your own, or ask the person for resources.

Be supportive.

Adoption is a difficult journey, and adoptive parents need encouragement.


  1. I agree with all of the above; with the exception of the "any child will be lucky to call you mom/dad". I know this is a taboo thing to say in the adoption world. I know the correct response is "No, I'm lucky to have them". I think both statements are true. While I know some people say the lucky thing because they have a "saving a child" mentality. I say it to my adoptive mom friends and my bio mom friends. I think it's a true statement. Any kid adopted or not is lucky to call them mom or dad because they are awesome and will make great parents.

  2. It's like you read my mind. Thank you! I may need to send this out to everyone I know! :)

  3. Thank you! I love this! I think that most people just don't know what to say when they hear "the news", so they say the first thing that comes to mind. And usually, it's wrong. My husband and I told our immediate families about our "formal" decision to adopt in person (they knew about our infertility struggles), but we also wrote a letter to our friends and co-workers using positive adoption language, and answering some common questions, just to let them know what the process was, dispell some myths, and give them something appropriate to say. Not one person said to me "I'm sure you'll get pregnant now!" That was a huge relief to me, and I think to them - it gave them time to process the news, and then come to me with excitement.


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