Answering Awkward Adoption Questions

disappointmentIf you are any part of the adoption triad – birthparent, adoptive parent, or adoptee – you’ve most likely been asked some awkward or insensitive questions, even if it is just out of pure curiosity the questions can still be inappropriate. It is always good to educate those who are curious about adoption when possible however depending on your mood or the way the question is phrased you can answer in three ways: humor, educational, or private.

Below are some questions that are commonly asked about adoption and some suggestions on how to respond to those questions:

  • “Aren’t you worried his birth parents will come and take him back?” The person asking this question most likely does not know much about adoption and adoption laws. There are ways to go about answering this question, such as giving the person a breakdown of the laws in which you live in, for example: Well in New Jersey after birthparents terminate their rights the child is legally the adoptive parents. You can learn about other states laws by searching adoption laws.
  • “How much was she?” Again, the person asking this probably has no connection to adoption. You could answer with “I think you are referring to the fees associated with the adoption process” and the you can choose to share about the amount of fees if you are comfortable responding that way. Many who find this question much too personal can simply respond with : Don’t you think that’s a personal question? or How much was your house or how much do you make yearly? to drive the its-too-personal point home. Or our personal favorite, “Priceless!”
  • “Her birth mother was a teenager, right?” Unfortunately this is a myth that many assume to be true. You can share your child’s birth mother’s story if you feel comfortable, or you can let the person know that it is a common myth and that a majority of birth parents are between the ages of 25 and 35. You could also let the person know that it is a private matter by saying We’re keeping his birthmothers information private right now out of respect.
  • “You’re adopted? Oh, I’m sorry..” This statement is usually not meant to be negative but can be very hurtful for adoptees. A fun way to go about it when your child gets asked this question is to let them say Well my parents chose me, yours got stuck with you. Or they could respond with I’m lucky enough to have two sets of parents who love me or simply “Don’t be sorry, I’m not.”
  • “Who’s her real mother?”You could respond with, I’m right here! Or Am I not real? Another way to approach this question is to reply by answering the question using the positive adoption language by saying that both her mother and birthmother are real but play very different roles in her life.
  • “Where is he from?” An easy response is to tell the person where your child was born, if domestically, which state. Another response that is common is From our hearts. Finally, you can rephrase their question and say, If you are asking which country he was born in, it was ___.
  • “Why didn’t her parents want her?” A simple and easy response to this question is, Her birth parents very much wanted her but they decided that they were not ready to raise a child right now and choose to place her for adoption. Another response could be that the personal reasons around her adoption story is private information that you aren’t sharing with others.
  • “Wow you’re lucky.” Responding to this question, no matter which part of the triad you are from, can be summed up into There is a lot of loss in adoption, it is not necessarily lucky. If you are an adoptee, you could respond with Well actually my parents are the lucky ones, they got me!
  • “Well, that’s all in the past now.”This can be a very hurtful comment from all side of the triad. The easiest way to respond is to let them know that your story of adoption has not ended, it is a piece of who you are, it is a lifelong journey for all those involved. You do not need to go into detail. Another response could be Sorry I have to go or This is a personal topic I’d prefer to not talk about.
  • “What do you know of her parents?” This is a question that could go both ways. You could keep your information private by responding with We’re keeping information about her birthparents private, out of respect. If you want to take a humorous approach you could reply with “Well I’m 5’5 and have blonde hair…”
  • “Does he like you?” This is a rather silly question, but you’ll probably get asked it. You can respond educationally, talking about the bonding process and how you chose to bond with your child. You could also reply with a humorous, Only when I let him eat chocolate. Finally, you can answer without actually giving information with a response such as Do you like your parents?
  • “How will you teach her English?” Depending on the age of your adopted child, this could be a very humorous question to be asked. If you child is 9 months old and someone asks you this, they are most likely not asking in a hurtful way. A quick and easy response could be What language are you teaching your 9-month old?
  • “Do you want him back?”This question can be very personal and hurtful when birthparents are asked this question. There are many ways to respond to this question. You could reply with It’s not always easy, but I made the best decision for my son. Or I’m still his mother and I think about him every day. Finally, you could take the silent approach and tell the person that you need to go.
  • “It’s too bad you couldn’t have a child of your own.” A quick and easy response to this question: My child is my own.
  • “I could never give up my child” An easy response is I did not give my child up, I placed her for adoption. Or Well everyone’s paths are different. Another reply could be Not everyone can make the decision I did.

Most of the time people who ask these questions are asking because they are curious and do not know much about adoption. They might not understand how personal and unique each adoption story is and can come off as being rude. As we said before, you can educate, keep private, answer without actually giving information or respond jokingly. Keep in mind that it might be a different dynamic if your child is with you when someone asks the question. If your child is old enough to understand, you could open the question up to them to answer: Jamie do you want to answer that question about your birthmother? Or by responding to the person asking: It is my son’s story to share so you can ask him if you would like.

What other questions have you been asked? How did you respond?

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