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Discussing Adoption with Your Family and Friends

Find out how to deal with unexpected comments about adoption.

Discussing Adoption with Your Family and Friends

You can be sure that if you're thinking about adoption, just about everyone you know will have an opinion about whether you should (or shouldn't) adopt. But the problem with listening to everyone else is that you will receive conflicting advice. Also, the people telling you what to do probably don't know squat about adoption. They all want what they think is best for you—but how can they know what truly is the right choice for your situation? Answer: It must be your decision.

Only you (and your partner, if you have one) can make such an important and life-changing decision as to whether or not you are ready to adopt a child. After all, no matter how much you love your family and friends, who's going to stagger out of bed at 2 A.M. to feed the baby? It's you who will be responsible for your child, and no one else.

If you decide to adopt a child who is of a different race or from another country, you may get additional flak from your family. You may also receive family disapproval if you are single and wish to adopt. If you've explained what you want to do to your friends and family and their objections seem unreasonable to you, you must decide whether and how their feelings will affect your decision to adopt and your future relationship with them.

Adoption Alert

Adoptive families are the recipients of some uniquely strange comments. Think about how you'd feel if your family was discussed this way:

    “Isn't it wonderful that they gave that little orphan a home?”

    “She is so cute! Good thing her real mother can't see her, she'd snatch her right away from you.”

    “I bet he is hyperactive because all those adopted kids have that attention deficit thing.”

    “You are such a good mother. It's almost like he was really your own.”

    “You're so lucky you didn't have to go through labor to have her. You did it the easy way.”

Breaking the News

Here are some tips for telling your family that you plan to adopt:

  • Listen for the underlying emotions and try to restate them. “Mom, it sounds like you are saying that you're worried the birthmother will change her mind, and we'll be brokenhearted.”
  • Tell your family that you are learning about adoption and adopted kids and soon you'll be able to share information.
  • If they seem worried, try to find out what the underlying concern is really about. My mother seemed to have doubts about adoption, but I couldn't figure out why. She finally told me she thought it would be hard to parent a disabled child. But I had no plan to adopt a child with special needs. Problem solved.

Opinions After Adoption

There are always going to be people who ask aggravating questions and make stupid comments. What's more, these questions and concerns will continue long after you've adopted a child. So, can you take it? Most adoptive parents answer with a resounding “Yes!” But I suggest that all potential adoptive parents imagine ahead of time how they might feel.

For example, would it bother you if people challenged your “realness,” your entitlement to be a parent when you adopt? Or if they make wrongheaded comments based on silly ideas? If you aren't confident that you could tolerate such remarks, well, fasten your seat belt. You may be in for a rocky ride.

Am I trying to talk you out of adoption? No way! But to my mind, the most successful adoptions take place when families are prepared for situations that commonly occur.

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