It's All Relative!

Misinformed relatives are notorious for insensitive comments about adoption. Here's how to prepare your child — and yourself.

Prepare your preteen for some insensitive comments about adoption

There’s no way to prepare for all the insensitive comments about adoption or awkward family moments, but here are three scenarios you might come up against — and ways to deal with them.

Looking Different

Q: My preteen recently told me she was upset because she doesn’t look like her cousins, whom she loves. Now she’s hinted that she doesn’t want to see them over the holidays. What can I do?

A: Nothing will shut down communication faster than pooh-poohing what your daughter feels or observes. Instead of trying to talk her out of her feelings, help her to identify the things she and her cousins have in common and to remember the special times they’ve shared.

Also, ask your daughter to think about her favorite companion. What is it about her pal that’s so special? How important to the friendship is that person’s physical appearance? If you can, tell your child about an instance when you, as a preteen, felt different or insecure, and explain how you dealt with it.

Reassure your daughter that her cousins love and enjoy her just the way she is — and that seeing her is one of the things they look forward to at the holidays.

Soccer, Anyone?

Q: My uncle Ted keeps asking my son whether he likes to play soccer, just because he’s adopted from South America. My son is getting annoyed. What should he say?

A: First, explain that Uncle Ted clearly wants to talk to your son, but doesn’t know enough about him to begin. Then teach your child to, neutrally and politely, deflect the soccer comments by getting Uncle Ted to talk about himself. He can say, “No, Uncle Ted. I don’t really play soccer, but I do enjoy my new drum set. What were you interested in at my age?”

Who knows? The two of them may discover lots of things to talk about, and, in the future, Uncle Ted may never have to use soccer as an icebreaker again!

Love Without Blood Ties

Q: At our last family gathering, my daughter overheard my aunt Betty ask me, “Before you get too old, aren’t you going to have children of your own?” Now she wants to avoid her like the plague. How can I smooth the waters?

A: First of all, it’s essential that your child understand that Aunt Betty was speaking about her own need to bear children — not yours. The underlying hint that you are somehow deprived (or unfulfilled) by not raising a biological child must be put to rest. Assure your child that parenting her has been the most rewarding experience of your life — and that she is very much “your own.”

Next, tell her that Aunt Betty has never adopted a child, so she may not understand the special closeness you share. Explain that there are always people who can’t comprehend love without blood ties. Let her know how much you believe they are missing.

Lastly, assure your child that you’ve spoken to Aunt Betty to clear up any misconceptions — and, as a result, you feel she understands more now than she did before, and she won’t be making such comments again.


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