3 Easy Reponses to Those Who Ask Nosy Adoption Questions

Some things are just too personal to share with the first (second, third, fourth . . . ) person who asks.

Rachel Garlinghouse July 19, 2015
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We’ve all faced the nosy questions and comments about our kids’ adoptions, questions like:

Why didn’t you have your own kids?

What country is she from?

What happened to their real parents?

Your kids are so lucky you adopted them.

Isn’t adoption super expensive?

I thought all adopted kids had problems.

Are they real siblings?

Now that you adopted, are you going to try to have your own kids?

These questions are intrusive, oftentimes offensive, and most problematic when they are asked in front of our children. Adults often, no matter how well-intentioned and “curious,” use their size, age, and authority to demand the personal details of our family’s adoption stories.

I’ve been a parent by adoption for almost seven years, and the questions and statements from strangers are often predictable, yet never cease to catch me slightly off guard. I might be trying to check out at the grocery store, get through an airport security line, or dining at a restaurant. It seems that no person is immune to piping up. We’ve been asked about adoption by teachers, police officers, medical professionals, the kids’ activity teachers, restaurant servers, and many, many more.

The best way for parents by adoption to answer inquiries from strangers, in my experience, is to be direct and brief. I’m a firm believer in protecting my children’s privacy and not giving away their stories like grandmas give out cookies. My job is to nurture my children, not meet the demands of strangers. Here are three go-to ways you can respond to strangers’ questions and fishing statements about adoption:

1. “That’s personal.”  (Or, if you want to be funny, “That’s classified.”) This brief statement lets the stranger know that he or she is being intrusive. With this response, you are confronting and responding directly to the person’s question while protecting your family’s story. You are also demonstrating to your children, who might be standing nearby, that you are unapologetic in respecting their privacy.

2. “Sounds like you are interested in adoption. Here’s a resource.” Hand the person a business card stating the contact information for your adoption agency or attorney, an organization that connects children with families (Dave Thomas Foundation, for example), a popular adoption website or blog (start with Adoption.com!), or a list of your favorite adoption books. You can have business cards printed inexpensively at a number of different websites. I keep cards in my wallet at all times, as does my husband.

3. “Isn’t it such a beautiful day?” Essentially, change the subject. Yes, this is evading, but it’s also letting an adult know that you aren’t interested in engaging in a conversation about adoption or your family’s story. This also gives the person an opportunity to re-think if he or she should really be asking that question or making that statement.

Remember, in refusing to give away your children’s stories, you aren’t being rude, nor are you unconfident. Instead, you are being assertive, demonstrating to both the asker and your children that some things are too precious, too personal to just hand to the first (second, third, fourth . . . ) person who asks.

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Rachel Garlinghouse

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of "Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children," "Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays," and "Encouragement for the Adoption Journey: 52 Devotions and a Journal" (co-authored with Madeleine Melcher). Rachel's adoption education and experience has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, Huffington Post Live, ABCNews.com, Babble, Scary Mommy, Portrait of Adoption, Slow Mama, I Am Not the Babysitter, and more. Rachel is a mom of three children, adopted domestically and transracially. Learn more about her family's adventures at White Sugar, Brown Sugar or on Twitter @whitebrownsugar.


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