Adopted children may encounter bullying and teasing throughout their lives. Bullying of adoptees can be about race, gender, adoption status, development, social skills, and much more. Teasing and bullying can easily be dismissed as “kids being kids” or you, as an adoptive parent, can relate to a time that you were bullied or teased. While this is true, adopted children experiencing bullying can be more complex. Many adoptees face fear of rejection and abandonment from their adoption experience. Talking to your adopted child about bullying is important to help them speak up if bullying starts and help them cope.
Adopted children may become targets of bullying because of developmental, behavioral, and neurological differences. They may also be teased about being adopted or physical differences from their adopted parents or siblings. Kids who face trauma early in life may experience long term effects that can impact their mental health.
Adoptees cannot escape their differences. Having adults in their lives to acknowledge and help them navigate the meaning of these difference is important. By standing up for them and teaching them to respond appropriately, we can help them feel empowered. Do not dismiss bullying and teasing because it can feel like another rejection for a child who is struggling to understand themselves and their adoption.
Real Questions Shared by Adoptees
“How much did they [adoptive family] pay for you?”
“No wonder they [birth parents] left you.”
“Where are your real parents?”
“What does it feel like to be an orphan?”
“Were your true parents poor or something?”
These statements are painful for any child or parent to hear.
How do you talk to your adopted child about bullying?
- Ask questions when your child talks about a bad day at school or problem with friends. Try to understand what is happening. Is bullying happening? What is the source of the teasing?
- Help your child recognize bullying. Calling out behavior for what it is can be critical. Naming an event, we can better process it, and learn what to do the next time.
- Talk about reactions to bullying. Walk away. Say “stop”. Don’t fight. Stay calm.
- Talk about the importance of reporting bullying to a teacher, counselor, or parent.
This is just the beginning of a broader conversation. Many children experience bulling and teasing daily. Talking about bullying can be hard and uncomfortable, but it is important. Children should and must feel safe enough to speak up when bullying occurs. That starts with a conversation.