Adoptive Families, the award-winning national adoption magazine, is the leading adoption information source for families before, during, and after adoption.


Adoption Basics for Family and Friends

As they welcome your baby, help your family understand adoption at the same time.

Part of the joy of bringing home our children is sharing our happiness with other people who are important in our lives. So we're sometimes caught off guard by insensitive or even rude questions and comments that may come from our family and friends. How to respond?

1. Protect your child's privacy. In the excitement of the moment, it's easy to reveal too much about your baby's background. This is your child's private history, and he should decide whether and when to divulge the story of how he came to be adopted. You do not have to answer every question that is asked, and you should never share anything that your child herself does not already know. Often, non-specific details will satisfy idle curiosity. Privacy means offering personal details only to those who need to know. Secrecy involves shame, and there is no shame in adoption.

2. Practice the right language. Now's the time to learn what to say to others about adoption. Your baby doesn't understand words yet, but she'll pick up on your tone, so keep it comfortable and relaxed. Soon enough, she'll begin to understand your words, as well, so start practicing your responses to questions and comments now.

3. Be a teacher. You can help others understand what it means to form a family through adoption and clarify their misconceptions. Asking "Why do you ask?" will silence some and reveal the sincerity of those who really want to know more about adoption. If questions are too intrusive, you can say, "I'm sure you understand that the information you seek is personal to our family."

Remember, we respond to these statements in order to help our children deal with such comments in the future. And what better time to learn to speak about adoption? You get to practice saying what you want your baby to understand when she's older. As she grows, she'll know how proud you are of the way you became a family.

Marybeth Lambe, M.D., is a family physician and adoptive mother in Washington state.

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