“Tell Me About Your Child” and Other Appropriate Things to Say to Adoptive Families

Curious about a family's story but not sure how to talk about it? Try this!

Denalee Chapman December 10, 2014
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There are plenty of articles, YouTube videos and friends who tell us what not to say to adoptive families. Things like, “Where is his real mom?” and “Why did she give him up?” Adoptive families actually do know that intentions are good – that these things are said because those not yet touched by adoption don’t know it will offend. After polling some adoptive mothers and fathers, I found that pretty universally we are happy to talk about our adopted children. In fact, we love to talk about our children! And we love to talk about adoption! Here’s what we’d love you to say to us:

“What a beautiful child! How old is she?”

Ask us specifics about our children, just like you would ask about any of your friends’ children. Ask what they like to eat these days, what new words they’re saying, how much she weighed at her last doctor visit. Ask if she likes wearing pink like my other girls do, or how he likes his new school teacher.

“Can you tell me about how you found your child? How did you know he was yours?”

We love sharing our adoption stories. . . at least, our part in the adoption. We don’t want to share private information about the birth mother or, if it’s an older child, his previous trauma. That isn’t our information to share. We’d love to talk about our adoption experience in the same detail you would share your labor and delivery experience. “It took two long years! But he’s finally ours.” And “This was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, but she’s worth every bit of energy it took.”

“If I wanted to adopt, where would I start?”

Oh! How we love to help others with adoption! We’ll tell you about agencies and attorneys, costs and cultures, wait times and rewards. Not interested in adoption yourself, but you’re curious about our adoptions anyway? Tell us! Just tell us that adoption/big families/foster parenting … is foreign to you and you want to know more about it. Tell us that you want to know what drives us and makes us passionate about adoption. We’ll tell you!

If you’re wondering if a question or a statement is appropriate or not, ask us. “I really want to know how you’ve decided on fostering to adopt rather than international adoption. Is this a touchy subject, or are you comfortable talking about it? Or: “I only have two children and my hands are full! How do you manage with nine? I’m impressed – but also curious.”

Keep in mind that, just like mothers of their own biological children, some things are private and some are not. We wouldn’t ask you why you stopped having children after two, so think first before you ask me why I have nine and am hoping for more. Or at least, phrase it in a way that makes me feel like you are not negatively judging me. That holds true for everything you ask. So much of how we react has to do with your phraseology. Please remember that we want to talk about our children! Don’t shy away from us because you don’t want to offend. Instead, if you’re still unsure, approach us with: “I don’t want to offend you, but _____.” We’ll know, then, that you are genuinely interested.

For more on the topic of what you should or shouldn’t say, check out this article.

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at DenaleeChapman.com.

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