I’m veering off today from my usual DIY projects to bring you an instalment of my personal life! haha Okay, not quite but almost.
When I posted previously about being adopted, I mentioned a couple of things that adopted parents should never say to their adopted children.
I’m certainly not an expert in this field but I am adopted so I have first-hand experience.
So here are some tips if you have adopted children of your own and ever wonder what the heck you shouldn’t say to your adopted kids.
Full disclosure: I am not an expert by any means and this is just my opinion as an adoptee. You don’t have to agree with this or take this as solid parenting advice. I am just relaying my experience and hopefully can help give insight to adoptive families from an adoptee standpoint.
10 Things Not to Say to Your Adopted Children
Okay, deep breath, here we go!
1. You don’t need to mention how ‘different’ your adopted child looks from the rest of the family.
This might seem like an obvious tip but I had a younger sibling that was conceived naturally by my parents. Family members were quick to point out how she had our grandfather’s chin or her mom’s eyes. Of course no one ever said things like that about me.
Adoptees can put up with it for a bit but make sure you don’t go on and on about it like it’s a whole family discussion for about an hour (trust me, I’ve been there).
Side note to adoptees: maybe you’re happy you don’t have your grandfather’s nose!?
Takeaway: Keep talk about physical traits to a minimum.
2. Don’t try to hide the fact that your child is adopted.
I never got this one. When I was out with my mother and sister, sometimes people mentioned how much I didn’t look like them and that I must look like my father. My mother would just yes, she does.
Now I’m all for niceties if the situation allows for it. Not every person in the world needs an explanation of your life in that very instant. But for the majority of friends and acquaintances in your life, what’s the problem with telling them that my daughter is adopted. Which leads me to the next one.
Takeaway: seems obvious
3. Don’t keep secrets. Like ever.
Luckily I’ve always known I was adopted and I’m so grateful for that. JUST TELL THEM IMMEDIATELY.
It serves no good keeping it a secret. Would you like a neighbour or uncle telling them one day or hearing it directly from you? Secrecy and whispering among adults feels awful when you are a kid especially when it pertains to you.
Takeaway: Don’t lie (which is a good rule in life too!)
4. Don’t wait to tell them they are adopted when they are older.
Why? No, really why? Tell me one good reason there is for keeping something so important from your adopted child.
Takeaway: Tell them as soon as they can listen.
5. Don’t tell them ‘you wouldn’t understand because you’re different than us’.
I was a social butterfly and the rest of my family were introverts. They didn’t think I could possibly relate to how they felt in certain situations because I wasn’t born to them.
This always bugged me. If you have kids biologically, chances are they are not going to be 100% like you either! I have two biological kids. Sometimes they’re like me, and sometimes they’re not. Do you know why? Because they’re their own people. Everyone is unique, adopted or not. Case closed.
Takeaway: this seems obvious 😉
6. Don’t keep adoption records from them if you have them.
I knew from day one that I was adopted, but some kids in my generation weren’t so lucky. I had to wait until I was 18 to search for my original birth certificate and adoption records, and then it took me years to find. I was born in the 1970s, when adoption records were closed. I wanted that information so desperately because I was given ZERO information as a child. I didn’t want to hear a fluffy story about how some woman loved me so much that she gave me up. I’m sorry but that makes no sense to a child. Or a teenager. Or even a grown-up adult, for that matter.
People want to know where they come from, period. It doesn’t matter if they were adopted in an amazing adoptive family or not. It’s just a natural, inherent need. Adopted people need to know where they come from, what the story is, and what their birth parents look/looked like (HUGE).
Everyone has a beginning. Could you imagine not knowing what yours was? Kids are usually good with a few bits of information a little bit at a time. Just go with the flow when their questions come up.
Takeaway: Give them all the information you know a little bit at a time as questions come up over the years.
7. Okay, so you might not have any information or adoption records to give them. Why can’t you try to search together as a family?
I know that may be a touchy one for adoptive parents. You may not want to revisit the past or bring your child’s family into your life. When your adopted child is old enough to search, though, knowing that you support them 100% will make them feel more loved than anything else you could do. If you’re against their desire to search, you’ll make them feel like they are doing something wrong. Please read number six again. You can be supportive and search together as a family, or you can force your child to search all on their own like it’s a secret (and we don’t like secrets!).
Takeaway: Search for records together as a family when child reaches maturity.
8. Don’t give them special treatment or special jobs to do.
Okay, this relates to No. 5. I had a completely different role in my family than my sister because of my perceived differences as an adoptee. I was given a lot of grown-up responsibilities in my teen years, which made me resentful. It goes both ways, though. Don’t let your adopted child skip out on chores or otherwise give them other kinds of special treatment just because they are adopted (unless, of course, they have a disability that needs to be accommodated).
Takeaway: treat like them a normal person because they are.
9. Don’t ever try to shy away from the subject or make them feel like adoption is a bad word.
Any time I brought up the word “adoption” in my household I felt like I’d said a big fat swear word. My mother would sigh or get a really anxious look in her eyes, as if I just asked her how babies were made. She did the best she could, but I felt awful just for asking! Why should I feel awful? I did nothing wrong. It’s a natural feeling to want to know more about your beginning.
As adoptees learn more about their adoption story, they may begin to feel some abandonment issues. This is natural and normal. But don’t keep information from them because you’re worried about how they’re going to feel. They need to know that you’re always there for them and that you’re not afraid to talk about their adoption story.
Takeaway: Be mindful and ready at any time if your adopted child brings up adoption because it’s no big deal!
10. The last one is actually a DO – ready for it?
Just pretend like THEY AREN’T ADOPTED. I know, ground breaking, isn’t it?
BUT and it comes with a HUGE BUT…. when anything adoption related comes up, you talk about it open and freely. Don’t try to shy away from the subject!
You are raising this person. They’re your kid. They’ll have the same traditions as the rest of the family. If they have traditions from their own birth culture, then embrace them as a whole family. Because that’s what families do, they do everything together. If you’re not up for the task, then you’re not ready to adopt at all (sorry, just another personal opinion!).
Here’s the big takeaway from this whole list:
Everyone in this world just wants to feel loved. I don’t care who you are, that’s the bottom line. You want to feel loved and you want to feel heard. From the time adoptees learn they are adopted and as they learn a little bit more about their adoption story, they might begin to feel some abandonment issues. It’s normal. But DO NOT KEEP information from them because you are worried about how they are going to feel. This is a natural feeling that might come up at some point in their life. But if they know that YOU are there for them ALWAYS even though someone couldn’t because of a million various reasons that this world throws at them, then they will get through it and come out stronger on the other side because of YOU.
Life can be hard and cruel at times which has nothing to do with adoptees and they need to know that they DID NOTHING WRONG. They will feel like they truly belong with you as a family and you were all meant to be a family when they have your unconditional support ALWAYS.
There. I’ve said my peace!
For more information, you can check out this website on Adoption.