When You Should Address Comments About Adoption

I am a teacher by trade, so the truth is that I want so badly to address all the inaccurate, misguided, impolite comments that I hear (and read) about adoption. My instinct is to educate everyone, everywhere, all the time. The reality is that this is impossible and attempting it gets really exhausting, really fast. I’ve learned through lots of trial and error that not every comment is worth a response. As a parent by adoption, you don’t have to educate every stranger in the grocery store. Sometimes it’s okay to just walk away. Here are some different types of comments I’ve heard and whether I choose to say my piece or keep the peace:

Comments or questions about the authenticity of a family

Examples: Didn’t you want kids of your own? Are they real siblings?

These are the kinds of questions that bother me the most, and I virtually always address them no matter the context. I want my kids to know that I will always, always stand up for the authenticity of our family. They are one hundred percent my own children. Our family is as real as it gets.

Questions about the specific details of a child’s adoption story

Examples: Why couldn’t his parents take care of him? Why was she in foster care?

If you need to ask, the answers to these questions are none of your business. As an adoptive parent, it’s sometimes tough to distinguish between our own adoption story (which we are often very willing to share) and our child’s adoption story (which is theirs to share when and with whom they feel comfortable). A simple “that’s her story to share, not mine” usually works well in these situations.

Use of non-preferred terms

Examples: That’s her adopted daughter. He’s adopted.

Yes, I prefer that my kids just be called my kids (after all, who says, “that’s her biological daughter?”). Yes, I always try to talk about kids who were adopted, not kids who are adopted (adoption is something that happened to them, it’s not who they are). But unless the person using the non-preferred term is going to have an ongoing professional role with kids (therapist, teacher), I will usually let these comments go.

Sweeping generalizations

Examples: You can’t adopt a baby from foster care.  All kids who are adopted from foster care have behavior problems.

This really depends on the context. A stranger or acquaintance (especially online), I can let go. If the person is a friend, I will try to gently educate.

 

General questions about adoption

Examples: How much does adoption cost? How long does it take to adopt a child?

In general, I am open to honest questions about adoption, even if they come from strangers. The reality is that with a toddler, I often don’t have time to answer them as thoroughly as I would like. I might point them to sites like this one and dash off. Or, if we’re lucky, we might be able to chat for a few minutes.

These are my general guidelines, formed over a few years through trial and error. They are certainly not hard and fast rules, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. When do you address comments about adoption and when do you walk away?