Ask AF: When a Child Looks Like One Parent

When an adopted child looks like one parent — but not the other — rude questions may arise.

Q: We adopted domestically, and our son happens to look like my wife. Rather than being asked about adoption, I get asked whether I had “anything to do with making him,” whether I “kept a close eye on my wife,” whether I’m his stepfather, and other annoying questions. How should I respond?


A: People seem to be programmed to understand human relationships through similarities and differences. Given this reality, frame your replies to benefit your son, not to protect your ego. Even if he’s still an infant, phrase your responses as if he understands. You’ll get practice at responding correctly, and you never know at what age he will start to “get it.”

You might say, “We are not look-alikes, but we are definitely father and son.” Or, more pointedly, “I get asked that a lot. People seem to expect fathers and sons to look alike — though I’m surprised that anyone would ask such a personal question in front of my son.”

Once your son starts understanding, you can talk about how each of you feels about the questions and how little some people know about adoption. It is a real father-son bonding moment in the making!