Adoption is hard. It can be traumatic. If the wounds it leaves are left unaddressed, it can result in many difficulties throughout life. When an adopted child says, “I hate being different. Why couldn’t I live with my birth parents like everyone else,” it’s a cry for help. There is pain for that child. It doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate your efforts, the home you have provided, the love you have shown. It’s just that there is confusion, frustration, or maybe anger that needs to be dealt with.

So how do you answer? Like everything else you do when it comes to your children: With love. Deep down, they already know the answer, which is some variation of “They couldn’t handle raising a child,” or “They didn’t want the burden,” or “They couldn’t afford it,” or “They were too young.” But those are things your child doesn’t want to hear. What they really want is reassurance that you love them unconditionally. That you are not going to abandon them, no matter what. That they can make mistakes, and you’ll still be there for them.

For me, the answer that would always be helpful to a question like that is, “I know it must be very difficult to understand,” or “I can’t pretend to know what you are going through, but I love you.” Of course, these are not phrases that are direct answers to the question, but they are answers that show that you have empathy, that you care, and that you are there for them.

Adoptees (and everyone, really) just want to be understood and respected. They want to feel like they are being heard, and that their feelings are being acknowledged and validated. They don’t need the harsh response that might be most truthful, and they certainly don’t need to be told blatant lies. Show them love, show them kindness and empathy, and remember that in the end, it’s not really the words you speak that will reassure them, it’s the kindness and support they will feel from you when you empathize with them and are there to support them.