When a friend or family member announces a pregnancy, the congratulatory comments come early and often. However, when someone you know announces their plans to adopt, there is often hesitancy to react. People are unsure how to talk to an adoptive family (what to say), or are afraid they will say the wrong thing.
“Birth mothers, adoptive parents and adoptees many times will find themselves surrounded by people who have never experienced placing a child, adopting a child, or dealing with what it means to be adopted,” writes Jessie McNaughton, Family Connections, Inc. As a result, people tend to underreact out of ignorance or fear, or they say something unknowingly hurtful.
In this article, we will explore what to say and what to avoid saying to an adoptive family.
How to Talk to an Adoptive Family
What NOT to Say to an Adoptive Family
“Sometimes people can say and ask some strange (and even hurtful) things when you announce an adoption,” writes adoptive father Nic Williams, Huffington Post.
- Were you having trouble getting pregnant?
- Do you still plan on having children of your own?
- Where did you get him?
- How much did she cost?
- Are you worried about attachment issues?
- Do you know much about his other family?
- Are you going to tell her she’s adopted?
“If your curiosity gets the better of you and you blurt something out inappropriate, then acknowledge it,” says Williams. “Don’t ignore it, we all make mistakes, just say you’re nervous or not sure what to say. Maybe your honesty will open a conversation.”
What to Say to an Adoptive Family
“Tell us how you are happy about the news,” says Williams. “It sounds like a no-brainer, but honestly, it doesn’t happen all the time.”
- Be positive.
- Send a card or give the adoptive family a call to say “Congratulations!”
- Ask to see photos of the child.
- Ask how the adoptive family is adjusting to parenthood.
- Ask about the child.
Basically, treat an adoptive family just like you would any friend or family member welcoming a new child into their home. Treat them with love and respect. Be supportive. And most importantly, “cut adoptive parents some slack,” says Williams. “They might be a bit sensitive and all over the place. They may have waited for years to be a family and when it finally happens, it can be quite overwhelming.”
How to Be Supportive
Adoptive families “can be left feeling unsupported,” says McNaughton. “So, what can a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker do to support someone they know” who has recently adopted?
- Ask how the newly adoptive parents are feeling.
- Ask what you can do to help.
- Offer to bring a meal over…but don’t overstay your welcome.
- Buy a gift.
- Be respectful of the adoptive family’s space and don’t push.
- Educate yourself on adoption and don’t be afraid to reach out to an expert and ask for advice.
- Learn Positive Adoption Language.
“All new parents need help, understanding and support, even if they are new parents to an older child,” says McNaughton.
Have Questions About How to Talk to an Adoptive Family? Adoption Makes Family is Here to Help!
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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If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online contact form.
- McNaughton, Jessie. “How Can Friends and Family Members Support Those Touched by Adoption?” Family Connections, Inc., www.adoptfamilyconnections.org/blog/how-can-friends-and-family-members-support-those-touched-by-adoption.
- Williams, Nic. “What to Say and Do When Someone You Know Adopts.” HuffPost UK, Huffington Post, 25 May 2017, www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/nic-williams/what-to-say-when-someone-adopts_b_10112720.html.