Adoptive Parents Say These “Innocent” Comments Hurt More Than You Know

Thousands of couples are desperate to become parents, but are devastated to learn they are unable to conceive and decide to grow their family through adoption.

Adoption provides children the chance at stability and security as part of a loving family, and offers couples a chance to fulfill their dreams of becoming parents.

But it seems people who have their own biological children cannot often understand the deep and complex bonds of adoptive families – so they often ask questions they feel are perfectly innocent but hurt more than they can comprehend.

Of the more than 135,000 children adopted in the United States every year, more than half find their forever homes after being in the foster care system, a quarter are adopted from other countries, and about 15 percent are babies given up at birth.

Adoption is not rare and is often an emotional experience for everyone involved.  These are unique bonds that provide unconditional love no different than that between biological parents and children.

Each family has their own story, their own joys and failures, and adoptive families are no different.  But some people who have no experience in knowing an adoptive family have many questions about the process and the personal details.

We’ve probably all experienced unsolicited advice or “innocent” comments about our children that may rub us the wrong way.  People may mean well, but by offering their thoughts with no understanding or context, can cause unintended pain.

Such is the experience of many adoptive parents.  Those who adopt children of a different race or ethnicity are especially prone to be on the receiving end of hurtful comments.

A recent Time Magazine article discussed this strange phenomenon of how complete strangers – and even family and friends – can look at adoption differently than a couple having biological children.

And the parents who have experienced this will tell you – their families are special, their love just as strong, and the adoption experience just as important to their family’s story as anyone else’s stories are to theirs.

There are many comments that may seem innocuous, even complimentary, when expressed to adoptive parents.  But many times, these parents feel embarrassed, defensive, and angry.

Most of us are too polite to tell people what we really think of their interrogations or comments about our children – whether we’re blessed with them through biology or adoption.

But here are just a few of the frequent scenarios or comments adoptive parents want you to understand are upsetting to them:

Adoptive parents don’t appreciate being praised for adopting a child, as if it is a sacrifice greater than any other parent’s.

They want us to know that every child deserves a safe home and loving family, and adoptive parents don’t consider themselves special or extraordinary for providing that.

In fact, comments like, “Wow, I don’t know how you do it.  I could never adopt,” make them feel like their family bonds are somehow harder to achieve than biological ones – and if their love is somehow subject to conditions.

They want us to know that “adoptive parents are just parents by other means,” according to Time.

Now, a comment along those lines is tough enough to hear, but just imagine how you would feel as a parent if someone asked you whether you were ever going to have “your own” children, or if your child knows who his or her “real parents” are.

These comments are not just hurtful, they’re downright demeaning.

An adoptive parent is no less a parent than a biological parent, and these types of comments are made out of ignorance of just how special adoption is.

And because adoption does bring up emotions and questions on the part of a child as they get older, the last thing they ever need to hear is that their family is not their “real” family.

Indicating that a woman must bear biological children in order to be a “real” mother is highly offensive.  It’s tough enough to be a mother in any situation.

We never know what other people are going through, especially if infertility is a reason for adoption.  This type of question makes women feel like they don’t measure up, affects their self-esteem, and can bring back painful memories of struggles and disappointments.

Adoptive parents want you to know a few other things.  Their families are as real as they get, their love and bonds as strong as any family, their guidance and devotion unwavering.

They ask for compassion and understanding, and that strangers keep their comments to themselves.

For friends and family members, they ask for the same love and attention for their adoptive children as for any biological children in the family.

Children are no less deserving of the unconditional acceptance, support, and love of their family just because there is no biological relationship.

Above all, parents who adopt want us all to know:  There is no greater joy than giving a child a safe home, love, security, and support.

Every parent is the same in that regard, and we’re all in this together.