How To Talk To Adoptive Families

family

We recently received notice that Magda and Rosie’s adoption has been finalized! This is wonderful news that we’ve been shouting from the rooftops. The adoption process took almost 3 years to complete and was a long and bumpy road, but now Josh and I literally have a license to parent.

While this is amazing news for our family, it has sometimes been met with less than sensitive responses. I think some people may not know the appropriate language to use when talking to adoptive families.  So, along with this news, Magda, Rosie and I have put together a little public service announcement on what not to say to adoptive families:

1. “You got kids the easy way!”  If you consider mountains of paperwork, home inspections, invasive personal questions, court dates, multiple case workers, years of waiting and the emotional turmoil of wondering if it will ever really happen EASY, then yes, we got kids the easy way. The fact is becoming a parent is not an easy task, no matter what path you take to parenthood. I’m not undermining the truth that pregnancy and labor are hard, but please don’t invalidate our years of emotional labor trying to bring our family into existence.   Also, from the girls perspective, nothing about this process has been easy for them either. They went through multiple foster homes and awful, unsafe situations before they came to us. Plus, all of us adjusting to each other and learning to be a family didn’t happen overnight.

2. “You are so lucky.”  Magda and Rosie especially hate this one, because those four words just disregarded years of trauma and the loss of their birth family. Every adoption begins with loss and pain. In order for the girls to gain a family, they had to lose one first. Magda says, “Maybe instead of saying we’re lucky, people could say they’re happy for us that we finally have a permanent home and that we’re blessed with good parents.”

3. “We thought about adopting after we had our own children.”  I never know how to respond to this comment. Thinking about doing something isn’t the same as doing it. We don’t have an automatic bond because you thought about adoption. Maybe more appropriate language would be, “Adoption is something we’re interested in. Tell me about your experience.”   AND please lose the “our own” children part. Magda and Rosie are my own children even though I didn’t give birth to them.

4. “What’s it like to have a normal family now?”  Please, what is normal anyway?

5. “Do you know where their real dad is?”  I’m married to him!  Again, the “my own children”, or “real parents” language is hurtful and always makes me want to jump into a Pinocchio style song and dance and shout “We’re a real family!”

6. “God had a plan all along.”  This one sounds nice on the surface, but Rosie had someone say it to her recently and she immediately felt triggered because, as she says, “I don’t think God planned for us to spend the first half of our childhood in abusive homes”.    Alternately, I don’t think God planned for Josh to have cancer and us to struggle through fertility treatments for years, so that we’d eventually consider fostering and adoption. God isn’t mean and we all go through hard things, but we can choose to make something beautiful out of those ugly things.

7. “Everything happens for a reason.”  Please see number 6 above.

8. “What an amazing thing you did bringing the girls into your family.”  Josh and I didn’t save anybody and we’re no angels. Yes, the girls have been through significant trauma and we provided them a safe place to heal, but that’s not an act of heroism. It’s an act of humanity.

9. “Where did the girls come from?”  Well, when a man loves a woman…  I honestly haven’t heard this question recently, probably because Magda and Rosie have lived with us for a few years now, but in the beginning I heard it all the time. I decided it was worth mentioning since we know other adoptive families who’ve all heard this sort of question. The truth is I have no idea how to answer. Maybe people are curious about their ethnicity or don’t understand how the foster system works. Either way, a more specific question would be helpful.

10. “Do you miss your real family?”  This one is obviously directed toward the girls. Again, instead of saying “real family” it’s more appropriate to say “biological family”. Here’s the thing, let the girls decide if they want to talk about their biological family members. If they trust you, they might bring up the subject, but they get to choose the time and place. There’s a lot of emotions and triggers involved with talking about the family they had to leave. Here’s Magda’s wisdom on the matter, “I’m always going to miss my siblings that I don’t get to live with and I’m always going to love my biological mom. I don’t love them more or less than my adoptive parents, I just love them differently.” 

That’s our list! We would actually love to talk to you about adoption. We’re pretty excited about it. Most people in our lives have been incredibly supportive, sensitive and understanding towards us during this process, but there’s always a few who need a little direction. Hopefully, our list is helpful and amusing.  For those of you who are visual learners, here’s a video to bring home our point. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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