are all my kids, even if they joined us through
Before you ask a question, consider
whether it would sadden or offend you.
(For example, think about how you’d feel 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 it. We understand that it is normal to be
curious about the circumstances that led to a
child’s adoption, and these are things that we
discuss openly in our immediate family—but
not anywhere else. Our children may or may
not choose to divulge details when they are
older, but they will always be their stories to
share, not ours.
If you would like to know how expensive the
adoption process was, please don’t ask, “How
much did your child cost?” and save any questions on this topic until our child is not present or send us an e-mail. 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.
Our children are not celebrities.
We know that everyone is excited to meet our
new additions. However, taking photos of
just our adopted child or pouring attention
on them while ignoring our other children is
not healthy for anyone. The child who is re-
ceiving all of the attention often feels singled
out and siblings quickly become resentful.
Rather, we hope you can help to normalize
our family, especially in your children’s eyes.
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.
If we confide our struggles, please
don’t ask if we regret our decision to
adopt or imply that “we asked for it.”
We may tell you that we are OK when we’re
really falling apart. We’re worried that, if
we are honest about how difficult parenting
through the transition is, 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.
Few people would tell a sleep-deprived
mother of a colicky newborn that she “asked
for it,” so please don’t say something like that
if we do share how much we’re struggling.
Just because something is difficult does not
mean that we regret it. There are bumps in
the road of every journey.
Finally: 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 all the time. These are ideas and suggestions, not commandments.
We appreciate that you care so deeply
about our family and that you want to help
make this transition as smooth as possible
for all of us!
ASHLEE ANDREWS is a veterinarian and mother
of six children by birth and adoption. She blogs at