Five Things You Should Never Say to Adoptive Parents


List after list of “What not to say to…” fills the internet with advice for well-meaning individuals simply trying to make small talk – I’ve happily written a few of them myself. One of the comments I receive most from readers is that the long lists of things not to say to X, Y and Z are now so long and so filled with offending comments that aren’t intended to be hurtful that we might as well say nothing at all. Well, my mother always taught me that if I haven’t anything nice to say, I should say nothing at all. I kind of agree with the fact that the lists of “What not to say,” have become a bit excessive, but there are still things that belong on these lists. When it comes to kids, especially, parents and hopeful parents and even people who have no desire to ever become parents are somewhat sensitive. The touching stories I hear from readers across the country never fail to make my heart ache – and even though I’m not an adoptive parent, I do know that sometimes the things people say to adoptive parents are hurtful.

Adopting a child is not for everyone. It’s for people who want it and those who can do it. Not everyone wants to adopt a child, and that’s all right. It doesn’t make anyone right or wrong to either want to or not want to adopt, but adoptive parents have one thing in common; they understand that some people would be better off saying nothing at all. That said, here are a few of the things adoptive parents wish you would just keep to yourself in the future – and believe me when I say this is a very shortened version of the list as many adoptive  parents have a long list of other things they’d appreciate never hearing again.

Aren’t You Worried about Him/Her?

Sure; adoptive parents worry that their kids will do well in school, that they will grow up happy and healthy, that they will look both ways before they cross the street and that they won’t give in to peer pressure and that they will not bring home some awful potential spouse when they’re older. But that’s not what you meant, is it? You meant, “Aren’t you worried this kid that isn’t yours will be broken or imperfect or not really attractive or that he or she will be addicted to drugs or beat your kids or abuse your family members?” didn’t you?

Don’t You Want a Real Baby of Your Own?

As opposed to a fake adopted baby? Go ahead and just come right out and ask if this person is having fertility issues, if they are having sex or if they are using the right method (because we do really wonder what the “right method” is, but no one can really tell us). It’s none of your business, but I’ll sum it up for you. Some people do want kids of their own but can’t have them. Some people do not want kids of their own but would love to adopt, and some people want to adopt and have kids of their own. Now hush with the personal questions.

Aren’t You Worried that Birth Parents will Want him or her Back?

Well, they are now! This is a question that most people know is not meant to come across as hurtful, but it is very hurtful. You see what you see on television, but you don’t know how people worry in their private time. Don’t bring it up; it’s probably not an easy topic to consider and you just never know if it’s possible or impossible for this to happen.

Why Didn’t You Adopt a Baby that Looked Like You?

Because Brangelina made it cool not to, you know? Really…it seems a bit racist and inappropriate to ask why you didn’t just adopt a child that looks just like you, but sometimes it’s not possible. Some people can’t afford to pick and choose their babies and some people just don’t care. A baby is a baby is a baby, whether he or she is black, white, purple or covered in polka dots.

You’re Definitely Going to get Pregnant Now!

All right; it’s the same thing people say to parents who undergo IVF treatments, and it is often true. But it’s not always the right thing to say. Some adoptive parents feel you’re implying that they’re adopting because they think that they will get pregnant with a child of their own in the near future. Some might be over the moon if this happened. Others might be offended because they have no fertility issues but simply chose to adopt instead of give birth. Just be respectful.

Here’s a nice thing to say to a parent of an adopted child: What a beautiful family you have! He/She is smart/sweet/kind/so funny/beautiful. And that is all.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


Leave a Reply