Q: My 12-year-old son came home upset the other day—a classmate had told him he felt sorry for him because he doesn’t live with his “real parents.” We went through questions and answers when he was young, but those dialogues don’t work at middle-school age. What can he say?
A: Middle school is a hard age! Any difference is noticed and magnified by other children, who are all self-conscious about their own differences. Are there other adoptees or kids of your son’s race at his school? Help him get acquainted with them.
Your son is at a new developmental phase, so it’s time for a “grownup” talk about his adoption. Review his adoption papers with him, including any information about his birth parents and the reasons for his placement. Let this information percolate and see whether new questions arise.
Help your son understand that he doesn’t have to be a poster boy for adoption or for his birth country. Tell him it’s OK to answer intrusive questions with, “Why do you need to know?” or “That’s my own business.” He can answer comments like the one he got from a classmate with, “I wonder why you say that? I’m doing great—how about you?” or “Don’t you know that every adopted person has two sets of real parents?”