Positive Language in Adoption (10 Things NOT to Say)

Adoption is a sensitive issue, and people who have not experienced it, cannot begin to imagine what it’s really like. I want to emphasize that this post is not to make me appear defensive, and I do not intend to offend anyone, but rather to keep it a somewhat light-hearted, comic style satire. As an adoptive parent, I feel that it’s my responsibility to my children to educate others on positive and negative language surrounding adoption. While I believe that people generally are not trying to be insensitive, the words that come out of their mouths sometimes just make me want to smack them.

*Editor’s note: I am not shaming anyone with this post. I do realize that sometimes people really truly are being kind and honestly are curious and have no ill intention. However, some really need to think before they speak. In the same respect, please think before sending me a nasty email or leaving an ugly comment. This post is meant to encourage healthy discussion, not to shame anyone for their thoughts and opinions. Also, I want to make it clear that I actually have heard each of these questions, often by people who barely know me. Thank you!

Ten Things NOT to Say to an Adoptive Parent - A satirical look at the things people say when they don't know any better

I have had strangers, and even friends, ask the following questions or make the following comments:

He Looks Just Like You! Using Positive Language in Adoption

1. He looks just like you, it was meant to be! or even better She looks just like he could be yours!

Actually, he is mine, and so is she. We may have fair skin, or similar noses, but I am completely aware of the fact that they do not share my DNA, and really don’t need to be reminded of it. Just tell me they’re beautiful – I will happily agree even if I can’t take credit for that.

how much did he cost. Using Positive Adoption Language.

2. How much did he/she cost?

Got him on sale, and I had a coupon!!

Babies do not cost money. Adoptions cost money. And it is rude to ask what an adoption costs even if you phrase it correctly. If you are truly interested, ask for some websites to do some research on your own.

do you know her real mother. Using Positive Language in Adoption

3. Do you know anything about their real mother?

I am their real mother. I am going to raise them, sit with them when they are sick, bandage their owies, and pay for college. Their birth mother gave birth to them, and for that I will always be grateful, but they are mine and I am their real mother.

Are you going to have children of your own. Using Positive Adoption Language

4. Are you going to have any children of your own?

See above. They are my own children and I will love them more than you can know.

You'll get pregnant now. Using Positive Language in Adoption

5. You know you’ll get pregnant within a year now.

Sorry, it’s physically impossible, and unless God decides Jesus needs a sister, I will not become pregnant now that I have adopted. Yes, we all know our cousin’s secretary’s sister who got pregnant three months after adopting. But this doesn’t happen in a statistically significant manner. And you have no idea what kind of fertility struggles someone may have gone through before adopting, so it’s better not to mention this to families adopting their first child.

was mom on drugs. Using Positive Adoption Language

6. Was her mom on drugs? Are you worried she might have problems later on?

Darn! I forgot to send in the warranty papers for the money back guarantee! First of all, the circumstances regarding my children’s births are none of your business, thankyouverymuch. He is my son, she is my daughter, and if any medical issues arise, I will deal with them the same as you would your children.

why did they give him up. Using Positive Adoption Language.

7. Why did they take him away? or Why did she give him away/give him up?

Again, none of your beeswax! “They” did not “take him away,” and she did not “give him away” or “give him up.” Parental rights of the birthparents are terminated for specific reasons, because it is in the best interest of the child for their safety and well being. (In the case of open adoptions, the positive language would be to say that the birthmother “chose adoption.”)

are you going to tell him. Using Positive Language in Adoption

8. Are you going to tell him he’s adopted?

The noneofyourbusinessgetoutofmyface response is becoming wildly popular. Adoption is rarely a secret in families in this day and age. It is part of their life story and it’s something we are open about. As is developmentally appropriate, my children will always know that they are incredibly loved and came to our family in a special way.

is she yours. Using Positive Language in Adoption

9. Is she yours? (I haven’t personally heard this one, but other’s have, so it’s worth sharing, and it’s the one I have the best answer to)

Nope, she’s on loan from the daycare down the street. Just taking her for a test drive to see if I want to keep her. (Here’s your sign…)

And my personal favorite…

he's so lucky. Using Positive Adoption Language.

10. He’s so lucky.

Correction, I am the lucky one. They have changed my life in ways you can only imagine.

You want to see how lucky I am?

A little girl and boy is sitting in the grass
If you haven’t already clicked the “unfollow” button, thank you for reading all the way through! Like I said earlier, this was meant to be a light-hearted, satirical post and I hope that it was received as such! I am not attempting to condemn anyone, but to merely shed some light on the feelings of the adoptive parents and children and the issues they deal with.
I welcome your feedback and questions!!

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. Wow, I must be a super chill adoptive parent because 90% of these comments/questions don’t bother me at all! I know people are curious and I’m more than happy to give them information if they’re coming from a place of love. Good to see other perspectives though!

  2. I am truly sorry that we are so inconsiderate. I think its from being uneducated. We on the outside lookjng in. We are so curious about you and why you have made those decisions.
    I truly admire you. I’m just here because you are an amazing cook and I’m all out of ideas.
    Love to you. Yes! Tell us off when we need it! I am impressed with you! And your pretty too!
    I look forward to you helping me feed my family. Take care. Laurel

    1. Hi Laurel, Thank you so much for such a sweet comment. I appreciate your willingness to read this article and share your feedback. Have a great day!

  3. KRISTIN MAXWELL, I have been heard all these comments and didn’t realize why I was feeling upset when it was said. It’s not nice to say these things, but people don’t know it. I’m learning to respond the right way. Thank you for sharing. I’ve enjoyed reading what is inappropriate.

  4. Wow this is exact I’m fostering to adopt now the adoption is in a couple days and I’ve heard every single one of these at least 10 times each it’s so crazy to me and i feel exactly the same way i felt like you were answering for me great article !

  5. I am a birth mother, and there are a few things an adoptive mother should never say to the birth mother of their child. “You already have 5 children, you can’t have her” I wasn’t planning on taking her away, just adding more people to love in my life. “Did you love her?” No, I placed for adoption because I didn’t love her…..
    “Did meeting her bring closure?” No, it just brought the hurt closer to the top, and now I have to figure out how to help her mend as well as me.
    Adoption is a wonderful thing, and I appreciate my daughters adoptive mom for her kindness and love. But just because the birth mom didn’t raise the child, it still is her child as well as yours. It is called a triad, and all three should love and appreciate what the other has done for each. We all have a lot of hurt, but love, genuine love will help each mend. This is a good article and I read it hoping I have never said these things, because I know how hard it hurts when people say things to me.

    1. Hi Danette, I am so grateful for your point of view. It’s so important to see things from all sides, and I’m sorry for the hurt you experienced. Every adoption is different, and unfortunately my children were not placed for adoption out of love but they were removed from their birth parents care out of necessity for their safety. There are so many layers and emotions around my and my children’s stories and obviously with yours as well. Truly, I am grateful you felt comfortable to share your story here.

  6. I am a mother who chose to give my son a better life through adoption. His mother is amazing and we have a great relationship! I’m truly blessed. Even though I’m not the parent of an adopted child I do know what a miracle adoption can be. I love your article! And you are right about most women don’t just give up their children because they don’t want them. They choose adoption because it’s in the best interest of the child. It takes strong women to put the child first and even stronger women (and men) to raise these children. I admire you for your strength!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Samantha! It’s so important to know your side of it as well. I appreciate you, and I appreciate your loving decision.

  7. Your post is perfect! I’m not an adoptive mom so I can’t possibly understand all of the emotions surrounding that, but obviously I know plenty of people who have chosen adoption and this wasn’t the least bit offensive or shameful to me. When you know better, you do better. I appreciate your honesty! I will always try to keep these things in mind and do my best to never hurt a fellow parent, regardless of how they got that title!

  8. I have adopted 3 boys via International Adoption and I’ve heard most of these comments. One doesn’t offend me, “he looks just like you” but that’s just me, for me it brought us closer. Most of the comments I’m just floored, people just don’t have manners I guess. Number 10 is most common and I always say these boys have truly saved my life … and I mean it. Great article, thank you for writing it!

    Huck

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