As any adoptive parent knows, it’s often impossible to avoid nosy, annoying, and even outright rude questions concerning your son or daughter. Sometimes, even well-meaning individuals can be a bit too intrusive.
“These negative messages are usually, but not always, unintentional,” says Julie Higginbotham, Adoptive Families. “People have an instinct for categorization; when they see situations that don’t fit the norm, they comment.” You’ve heard them all before…
|“Is she adopted?”||“Does she still talk to her real mother?”|
|“Where did he come from?”|
|“How much did he cost?”||“Do you have any children of your own?”|
“Most of the time people who ask these questions are asking because they are curious and do not know much about adoption,” explains the Adoptions From The Heart blog Answering Awkward Adoption Questions. “They might not understand how personal and unique each adoption story is and can come off as being rude.”
It’s important to develop a plan of action to deal with these questions in a calm and respectful manner. This typically involves a two-phase approach: addressing your child, and responding to the original question.
Addressing Your Child
“Despite our best efforts, the incessant questions from strangers chip away at our foundations,” says Higginbotham. “At home, were telling our children that adoption is a special way of creating a family, and that their birth cultures are something to celebrate. Meanwhile, repeated encounters with people…send them a different message.”
It’s often not the question itself that is so hurtful, but the impact it can have on your child. “Even for the child who is the toughest cookie, some of the questions can leave them speechless,” explains Meredith Resnick L.C.S.W., Psychology Today. So, when dealing with nosy or outright rude adoption questions, it is important to first reassure your child that adoption is perfectly normal. Then, once you have addressed your child, you can respond.
Developing a Plan to Respond to Nosy Adoption Questions
“I like to use a three choice process when asked about my own adoption story. It is called the TIP process: Tell, Ignore, say it is Private,” explains Dr. Dean Kirschner, Executive Director and Adoption Counselor at Adoption Makes Family. “I can choose to tell the story of my child’s adoption. I can ignore the person, or I can say it is private.”
Just remember to stay calm and be respectful. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but it is important to set a good example for your child.
“Trust me, the kid is listening for your response,” says Sharon Van Epps, ESME.
“Most people who adopt across ethnic boundaries love to talk about it, given appropriate circumstances,” says Higginbotham. In fact, when asked politely, many adoptive families have no issue discussing adoption open and honestly. This is an excellent opportunity to educate someone who is genuinely interested in learning more about adoption and your unique story.
Sometimes the best option is to just ignore a question, especially if it is posed in a purposefully hurtful way. Make sure your son or daughter is okay and just walk away. Remember, “you don’t owe strangers anything,” explains Van Epps.
Say It’s Private
“Families built by adoption are unashamed,” says adoption blogger Jill Robbins. “But we aren’t eager to hand out our children’s stories like a grandma hands out chocolate chip cookies. Why? Because those stories are not only private, but sacred.” So, it’s perfectly okay to tell friends, family members, and especially strangers that you would rather not discuss your child’s adoption at this time. “I’m all in favor of a tactful: ‘It’s none of your business,’” says Dr. Michele Borba. This is often enough to put an end to any uncomfortable questioning.
“You’re not required to share personal details about your child with anybody, not even loved ones,” says Van Epps.
Do You Have Questions About How to Respond to Adoption Questions?
Adoption Makes Family is here to help! We are a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland. Our birth parent adoption counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time.
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- “Answering Awkward Adoption Questions.” Love Builds Families, 17 June 2014, afth.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/answering-awkward-adoption-questions/.
- Higginbotham, Julie. “Dealing with Negative Messages About Adoptions.” Adoptive Families, 9 Oct. 2017, www.adoptivefamilies.com/talking-about-adoption/negative-messages-about-adoption/.
- Resnick, Meredith. “The Tough Cookie’s Guide to Annoying Adoption Questions.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/adoption-stories/201003/the-tough-cookie-s-guide-annoying-adoption-questions.
- Robbins, Jill. “5 Real Life Responses to Nosy Adoption Questions.” Ripped Jeans & Bifocals, 2 Nov. 2017, rippedjeansandbifocals.com/5-real-life-responses-to-nosy-adoption-questions/.
- Van Epps, Sharon. “Seven Tips for Dealing with Unwanted Questions and Comments About Your Adopted Child.” ESME, 27 June 2016, esme.com/single-mom-resources/content/adoption/seven-tips-for-dealing-with-unwanted-questions-and-comments-about-your-adopted-child.