Courtesy of Ashlee Othick Andrews at http://www.thekitchenisnotmyoffice.com here are some important thoughts for friends and family of adoptive families to remember:
Our children are not necessarily grateful to have been adopted.
And we don't expect them to be. It is not that our kids don't notice the stability of a family. It's not that they don't cherish the love that they are receiving or that they don't like their new life. It is because children are programmed to need, want and expect love. When we provide it we are not heroes, we are simply meeting one of their very basic needs. Expecting adopted children to be grateful for being adopted is like expecting our biological children to be grateful for being conceived. It was a choice that we, their parents, made and that they were brought into.
Parenting an adopted child is hard work and we struggle.
We may tell you that were okay when we're really falling apart. We're worried that if we are honest about how difficult it is that you won't understand and that you'll think we're nuts. Adding a child who may or may not have anything in common with us socially, culturally, biologically or even personality-wise is challenging. Though undoubtedly beautiful and worth all of the struggles, adoption certainly isn't always easy or pretty.
It is greatly appreciated if you choose your wording carefully, especially around our children.
Yes, these are all our "real" kids (though sometimes it would be nice if all of my kids, adopted and biological, had "off" switches) and, in most situations, you probably do not need to specify whether you are talking about my "adopted kids" or my "biological kids". They are all my kids even if they joined us through different paths.
Be considerate of the types of questions that you ask about our child's background and personal history, especially in their presence and especially if they are old enough to understand.
Would it offend you if someone asked if you have AIDS, if you were abandoned, if your parents were drug users or how your parents died? If so, best not to ask these questions to someone else. We understand that it is normal to be curious and to wonder about the circumstances that led to a child's adoption. However, these are things that we discuss openly in our immediate family but not elsewhere. Our children may or may not choose to divulge more of their personal stories someday when they are older but they are THEIR stories and details to share, not mine.
Attachment takes time and work.
It doesn't happen overnight. Even if it appears that our child is securely attached to us it may take many months or years and every child and every family bonds differently. Many times we're faking it until we make it but one day we will wake up and realize that we're not faking it anymore and that our love is deep and real.
Please refrain from commenting on our child's appearance (specifically relating to ethnicity/race) in front of him or her.
All children want to feel included and to fit in. Pointing out how dark they are, how differently they look from the rest of us or how unique their hair feels only makes them feel like they stand out more.
Please do not ask adopted children if they like their new parents/family.
Adopted children do not usually get to hand pick their family. Adoption is similar to an arranged marriage and unique, sometimes very different people are brought together. With hard work and patience true love may grow. However, ask ANY child, biological or adopted (especially any older child!) if they like their parents and be prepared for some interesting answers!
It takes time to help children start to heal from a difficult past.
Just because they have been with us for a certain amount of time does not mean that the are "fixed". On the other hand, just because children are adopted does not necessarily mean that they will be any more difficult, defiant, less successful or anything else as teenagers or adults.
Educating your children about adoption and diversity helps my children.
Talking openly about adoption, children who look different than one or both parents and other "nontraditional" family structures helps our children feel accepted and secure at extracurricular activities, church, school and elsewhere in our community.
Please do not tell us how amazing we (parents) are because we have chosen to adopt.
We know that this comment is usually intended as a compliment but our adopted kids are not burdens, charity cases or a community service project to be completed. As parents we gladly invest the time and energy needed to ensure the happiness and well-being of any of our children.
We do not advertise our child's "cost".
If you would like to know how expensive our adoption process was, please ask when our children are not present, call after our kids are in bed or send us an email. Most adoptive families are happy to share our experiences and to provide helpful information but we do not ever want our children to feel like they were bought or that they are commodities.
When the going gets tough please do not ask if we regret our decision to adopt or imply that "we asked for it".
Few people would tell a sleep-deprived mother of a colicky newborn "well, you asked for this" and it would be considered rude to ask a new mother if she regretted her decision to have a baby. Just because something is difficult does not mean that we regret it. There are bumps in the road of every journey.
Even the happiest of adoptions are a result of challenging or difficult circumstances.
Though we like to think of adoption as a "happy ending", birth parents may have made difficult decisions, children may have faced losses and many lives were forever changed. Though most adopted children grow to be happy, well-adjusted adults and though most adoptive families are beautiful and full of love, it is important not to romanticize adoption.
And, most importantly:
No one is perfect.
If you slip and call our biological kids our "real" kids or if you've already asked "What happened to his mother?" we won't hold a grudge. We know that our family is different. We understand that it is impossible to be sensitive and politically correct in every situation all the time. These are ideas and suggestions, not commandments.
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