I spend a lot of time coming up with answers to ridiculous questions from strangers about our trans-racial family. Can they speak English? They must be really smart! (Yes, these things really happened). I also spend a lot of time telling people what NOT to say when they see a family built by adoption. Well, I’m in a good mood this week so I’m going to give you some positive advice on what you CAN say to a family that is built through adoption!
1. Make sure they are really adopted before you say something dumb.
Just because the kids don’t look like the parents doesn’t mean they are adopted. You need to figure this out. It’s ok to simply say, “Is she adopted?” but I always appreciate when people follow it up with why they are really asking, “My niece is adopted too, I’m so happy she’s in our family.” Unfortunately a lot of people have crappy assumptions about how an adoptive family is made and some of us (pointing finger at myself) have heard enough garbage that they are quick to assume the worst. So show us you mean well right out of the gate!
2. Where is he adopted from?
This really is an okay question. I’d rather someone ask then assume. I have Korean children. I get a lot of “Did you have to go to China to pick her up?” Ummmm, nope, because she’s never been to China! Again though, always nice to follow up with, “Korea, awesome! I have a friend who adopted a little boy from Guatemala and …..” Nice to see your perspective.
3. I’ve always wanted to adopt but have no idea how to start the process- who helped you?
Adoptive parents want other people to adopt. This isn’t a secret club we’d like to be exclusive about. Once we know you are likeminded we are excited to chat with you about it! Please try to keep negative adoption remarks to yourself. Save those for a private adult conversation where you can express your concerns.
4. How did you decide to adopt?
This is a long conversation but it’s definitely an okay question. This might be for a later date, or a time without children, or an email conversation, but it’s okay to ask!
Most important, be genuine and nice. Don’t say anything you think could be construed in an ugly way. I often hear, “what a beautiful and lovely family you have.” That’s enough. I know you mean that you see my kids are adopted and you think it’s great- so do we.