Unfortunately, as many adoptive parents know all too well, it is often impossible to avoid the occasional rude question concerning your adopted child. Dealing with rude questions comes with the territory. “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.”
These types of situations are often unavoidable, so it can be helpful to have a plan of action in place for dealing with rude questions or comments. This typically involves a two-phase approach: addressing your child, and responding to the original question.
Addressing Your Child Before Dealing with Rude Questions or Comments
Before even thinking about dealing with rude question or comment, it is important to talk to 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. These encounters “chip away at our foundations,” says Higginbotham. “At home, we’re 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.”
So, first reassure your child that adoption is perfectly normal. Then, once you have addressed your child, you can respond. But remember to try and be respectful in your response. It’s not always easy, but “trust me, the kid is listening for your response,” says Sharon Van Epps, ESME.
How to Respond When Dealing with Rude Questions or Commenrs
“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.”
“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. And while it is certainly not an adoptive parent’s duty to educate everyone, there are times when this approach is appropriate, such as when dealing with a friend or family member. This is an excellent opportunity to educate someone who is genuinely interested in learning more about adoption and your unique journey as a parent.
Remember, “you don’t owe strangers anything,” explains Van Epps. Sometimes the best option is to just ignore the question or comment, especially if it is posed in an intentionally hurtful way.
Saying It’s Private
There are times when a question can come along from a person who is truly interested in learning more about your adoption journey, but you might not be ready to share. That is perfectly okay! “You’re not required to share personal details about your child with anybody, not even loved ones,” says Van Epps. In these situations, it’s perfectly okay to say, “I find your question very personal” or “I’m not really comfortable sharing right now” or even “I’m sorry, but that’s private.” This is often enough to put an end to any uncomfortable questioning.
“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.”
Want to Know More About Dealing with Rude Questions or Comments?
Remember, you are not alone. Adoption Makes Family is here to help! We are a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland. Our 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.