Etiquette School is in session! > The Ehell Guide to Never Behaving Badly

Adoption etiquette

(1/9) > >>


I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. 

People who are interacting with adoptive parents or adoptive children:

•   Don’t say, especially in front of the child, “Oh, I could never give up/give away my child!”;
•   Don’t say, “Where did you get him/her?” or “Where did she/he come from?”  (It may surprise you but the vast majority of adoptions in the US are domestic so the answer to that question will probably be “Peoria” or the equivalent even if the child “looks” foreign);
•   The adoptive parent is the “real” parent both legally and emotionally--the birthparent is called birthmother, birthfather or first mother, first father;
•   Adoptive brothers and sisters are “real” brothers and sisters even if one child is adopted from Russia and is white, another sibling is a domestic foster adoption and African American and the third kid is biological;
•   Don’t tell an adoptive mother or couple, “Oh, now you’ll get pregnant!”
•   Not everyone adopts because of infertility—don’t ask;
•   We don’t adopt to “save” a kid and we aren’t “saints” for adopting a child—we are just parents;
•   Foster kids aren’t broken children;
•   Not all or even most birthmothers are teenagers or drug addicts—don’t make such an assumption;
•   It surprises people sometimes, but, yes, you can love your adopted kid just as much as your biological child;
•   Open adoption is the norm now (at least in the US), so learn about it and don’t assume that open adoptions are bad or confusing for the child.  Some open adoptions work marvelously, some don’t;
•   Adoptive parents pick international adoption for many different reasons—please respect that and don’t harangue them for not “saving” “one of our own”;
•   Don’t tell an adoptive child that he/she should be “grateful” for being adopted—no child should feel like he/she needs to be “grateful” for his/her existence in a family;

If you are talking with a birthparent:

•   Don’t say, especially in front of the child or birthparent, “Oh, I could never give up/give away my child!”;
•   Not all or even most birthmothers are teenagers or drug addicts;
•   Don’t tell her that “Well, at least you didn’t abort your kid!”

If you are talking with an adopted person:

•   Don’t say, “At least your birthmom didn’t abort you!”
•   Don’t imply that he/she should be grateful to have been adopted.  Adoption is a great thing but it also includes a huge sense of loss and identity questions.  My daughter, adopted from Guatemala, gained a lot from being adopted (better health care and education plus being raised by me!) but also left behind parents, two siblings and her culture.  That is a lot to lose for an 18 month child.
•   Don’t imply that his/her adoptive family isn’t “real” and/or that he/she isn’t really part of that family;

I’m sure I’ll think of more but that is what I have so far.

I actually started to tear up when I thought about people saying this stuff to parents/birth parents/children. I can't believe how awful people can be.

My 2nd cousin and her husband adopted 2 children of a different race, and her grandfather didn't want to acknowledge them. It broke my heart. Luckily, her parents were pleased as peacocks to be grandparents, so when I saw them at a reunion, I got to see lots of pictures of the babies. They later had a biological child. In a way, I giggle at the thought of someone telling her that they now have a "real" child, but only because I know that she would, in her polite southern way, verbally eviscerate someone who implied the older 2 weren't her real children.

WF--yeah, it is amazing that people actually DO say those things! I go on an adoption forum and people there frequently post about rude/mean things that others have said to them.  (I've actually promoted ehell a few times over there because of the outrageously rude comments people have made!)

-Don't refer to an adopted child as "the adopted one" as if it's the child's last name or bring it up in every single conversation, particularly if it has nothing to do with the story.

-As a corollary to adoptive parents being real parents: an adopted child's child is the adoptive parent's grandchildren. Example: If Donna adopts Susan, and then Susan has Jack, then Donna is Jack's grandmother. Do not say, "Oh! Donna's the grandmother out of politeness! Susan was adopted!" No. Donna IS Jack's grandmother. Period. End of story. She's not the grandmother "out of politeness".

I am so grateful for this thread! A childhood friend was adopted and it was such a touchy topic that I'm a little awkward when it comes to adoption now.

If an (adult) friend tells you they're adopted, is it okay to ask if they've met their birth parents?


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version