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What Not to Say to Adoptive Parents and Children

When speaking to adoptive parents, families and adopted children, some people say the craziest things without meaning to be offensive. Each year there are more thank 135,000 adoptions in the United States. You would think that the population would be a little better educated in adoption etiquette.

One very common phrase is, “Who (or where) are your real parents?” This is often said to adopted children and adults. The fact of the matter is that the parents who are raising or have raised that individual are their “real” parents. Most adopted children refer to their biological parents as their birth parents. One adopted man said he tells people he has his parents and his birthparents and he is lucky because he has more family than most!

Another phrase that makes adoptive parents cringe is when people ask them if they have any children of their own. Adoptive parents who have both adopted and biological children see all their children as their own. Some families will not identify to others which children are adopted and which children are biological. They are one family and each child is their own.

When people learn of a couple that has adopted, they often want to know more and can sometimes get a little too personal. In many cases the adoptive couple has been through years of infertility treatment and decided that adoption was the best way to go. People will ask, “Who’s problem was it?” A great answer from an adoptive mom was, “Infertility was our problem.” She would leave it at that as she was not inclined to talk about the intimate details of their reproductive problems.

Another common phrase that all those who are involved in adoption dislike is “giving a child up.” The “giving up” concept has been around since the beginning of adoption. Today, the proper term is “placing a child for adoption.” Parents don’t give up their child. They make a well thought out plan with the best possible options for their child. Placing a baby or child for adoption means that the parent wanted more for their child then they were able to give. They wanted the very best life for their child and made a painful and loving decision to place their child with wonderful parents who could provide what the birthparents could not at the time. Placing a child for adoption is in no way giving up a child. It is giving that child more.

Most people in America have either had adoption in their family or have a close friend that has been touched by adoption. It is hoped that they will be sensitive to the adoptive parents and the adopted child when talking about adoption. Today, it is very common for the child to talk openly about their adoption. Many have an ongoing, open relationship with their birthparents and are very matter of fact when talking about them. This is a very healthy relationship for all involved in the adoption: the child, the adoptive parents and the birthparents. Adoption has come a long way since the closed, and sometimes secretive adoptions of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Today, information is transferred between all parties long before the birth and plans are set for wonderful, ongoing relationships.