Adoption is such a hard subject to talk about with family and friends simply because there are just so many myths surrounding adoption. People just simply do not understand adoption if they have not gone through it or not been part of a family that has children who were adopted. When you are speaking to your friends and family about adoption, it is important to remember this lack of understanding. This is not usually coming from a place of malice but a place of ignorance. It is important to acknowledge the fact that each person is coming from a place of their perspective is simply what they’ve seen on the news or watch the movies. This will set the stage for allowing you to correct beliefs that are incorrect but also to help educate your family and friends on the process of adoption as well as the effects adoption can have on the family as a whole.
When speaking to your family and friends about adoption, there are three techniques or foundations from which you can start. You will want the information that you give your family and friends to be both educational and informational. However, the biggest portion of explaining adoption when talking about adoption, in general, will be the part that is personal to you. When people truly understand why we adopt or the reasoning behind placing a child for adoption, then that story is more likely to touch them or help them to understand. We are a society of storytellers. There is so much power in the art of story. We can use our story to help educate and inform.
Whether you have already adopted or are in the process of adopting or are placing a child, your family and friends may have a lot of questions. These questions may seem very innocent all the way to very ignorant. However, we have a choice in how we react to these questions. There are chances that you are going to get asked the same questions over and over and over. The chances are high that you will get very ignorant comments about adoption from at least one person and your family or friend group. It’s just the reality of life and people are coming from a place of only knowing about adoption what they’ve been told. This is your chance to either approach that question from a place of anger and sarcasm or to begin to change the perspective of that person. I always take the opportunity to educate people in adoption rather than to judge them for their views. This is simply because I understand that their views are flawed based on what they’ve heard. If I can be the person to change their perspective or to help them understand the need for adoption and the heart of adoption, then I definitely want that opportunity. It is a blessing to have that opportunity and to be in the space to do that.
The first step to addressing the topic of adoption with your friends and family is to provide educational information about adoption. These pieces of information will vary depending on the type of adoptions which you are pursuing or if you are placing a child for adoption. If you are an adoptive parent, you may talk about the number of children available for adoption. You may also provide educational information on the process of adoption. Many people just don’t even know how adoption works or what the cost of adoption might be. You can find a lot of great information on Adoption.com and Adoption.org. These resources are great materials to provide to your family. You can even refer them to those sites for more information.
If you are an expectant parent placing your child for adoption, you might talk about whether your adoption will be open or closed. Open adoption has grown incredibly popular and affords many expectant parents the opportunity to let their family know that they are not losing touch with their child. Some open adoptions even include visits throughout the year. My children speak to their birth mother via video chat once a week, and we attempt to visit extended family at least once every six months. The types of open adoption may vary but educating your friends and family on open adoption, if that is what you have chosen, can provide tremendous peace of mind.
One of the best ways to approach telling your family and friends about adoption might be to make sure that your family and friends know that you are happy to answer any questions they might have. You may even find that your adoption agency or attorney is happy to answer questions for you. There is also the opportunity to ask questions at the question and answer area of Adoption.org. There are also many Facebook groups such as I Love Adoption by Adoption.com that have people always ready to answer questions. This information may give your family and friends a lot more perspective about adoption. Being open to answering any questions will also prevent your family from believing misinformation or holding onto false information.
Providing information to your family about your adoption will be another way to provide assurance about your adoption. This differs from education as you are speaking directly about your specific adoption process. As an adoptive parent, this could include speaking to your family about the timeline your agency has given you (if any), some general information about the child or their birth family, and possibly more about what type of adoption you will have—either open or closed. You might provide more information about the child’s background as well as information about the steps you will take in your adoption journey. As an expectant parent, this may include providing information about the steps on the adoption process and what all that entails. You may tell them about the process of choosing a family with which to place your child and the legalities involved in the adoption process. It will be up to you to decide what information you feel comfortable providing throughout the adoption process.
Information is a great tool in speaking with your family about adoption in general. Information will likely be the main thing requested by your family and friends upon receiving the news of your adoption. If you are an adoptive parent, they will first want to know the details specific to your adoption process and the child you are adopting. This information will provide your family and friends with the facts that will likely appease their initial curiosity. You will likely provide information to your family and friends throughout the adoptive process. It may be advisable to create an “adoption update” page on social media to keep your family informed. This can curb many of the curious questions as your family knows where to go for updates. Check with your adoption agency or adoption attorney before posting any information about your adoption online in order to avoid compromising any privacy issues or laws regarding adoption in your state.
Other informational topics might include resources that are available for adoptive or birth families. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney may have connections to other families who your family and friends could get in contact with if they have any questions. It is often nice to speak with someone who has gone through the adoption process. This will be good for not only you but for your family and friends. You may also find adoption support groups in your area for both immediate and extended families involved in adoption. There are few things more powerful than witnessing adoption and life after adoption firsthand.
Telling stories is simply a part of human nature. We were born to tell stories. All of human history is a collection of stories. This is why it is called history: “his-story.” For this reason, telling the story of your adoption can be one of the best ways to talk about adoption to your family and friends. For the expectant parent, they may tell their family the reasoning behind their choice for placement and the feelings they have about their choice. For adoptive parents, they make speak of how they came to the decision to adopt and their general heart for adoption. In both scenarios, stories will be what garners support from family and friends. This support will mean the world throughout your adoption journey and well before placement has occurred. The more people you have in your corner, fighting for you and rooting you on, the better.
When my husband and I told our family and friends that we were choosing to adopt, they were in sort of a state of shock. We had three children already and for some reason, it’s just not in the norm for people to have large families these days. They had many questions and wanted the answers to a lot of informational details. However, we first approached the subject of our adoption by telling the story of why we have chosen this path.
By telling people about how we had always planned to adopt, how that had always been in our hearts, and how we felt very comfortable expanding our family. Oh, they began to not worry so much about the informational aspect. The more we reflected on our adoption journey and how we came to that decision, the more people understood the personal nature of our adoption story. It sat well in people’s hearts—the fact that we had a really dug deep to decide to adopt and the reasoning behind it. People became a lot more confident in our decision. That may sound silly because it’s really no one’s business nor right to have a lack of confidence in your decisions. However, if you are anything like me, my family and friends are very opinionated. It doesn’t matter whether or not they have a right to an opinion, everyone has them. When we stated that it was our decision and that we were happy with expanding our family past three children, a lot of the questions and naysayers died down. When we really got to the heart of the story, people responded well.
If you are an adoptive parent, once your child is placed with you then people may want to also know their story and background. These may be simple things, for example, in an international adoption they may want to know what country they originated from and some details of their culture. If you are blessed to have an open adoption then people may want to know about the birth family. When it comes to the stories you tell it is important to understand and make a differentiation between the parts of your story that you can share as adoptive parents and the other parts of your story that you can’t share because those parts belong to your child. To read more about the privacy of your child in the adoptive process here is a great article to reference. In general, you want to keep the story very general and tell things about your child that are common knowledge. That is usually way easier to do in an open adoption. Your adoption story should focus more on how you came to adopt, and how your child came to be placed as you. Not the private, personal details.
At the end of the day, we simply cannot please everyone. There will be people who will remain upset even after being given all the information about your choice to place a child for adoption or even to adopt a child. There are still people in our lives who call us crazy for choosing adoption. There are people who are upset with birth parents for placing their child for adoption. When it comes down to it, the choice has to be yours and when that choice is yours, you can go with confidence. When you have given your family and friends the information that you feel comfortable giving, told them your story, and provided them with any education that you can, then it is up to them how they feel. The only person you can control in this scenario is yourself. We can’t dictate how people feel, unfortunately. Remain steadfast in your choice and your love for your child. In the end, your child is who matters most.
Lita Jordan is a master of all things “home.” A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the “other Michael Jordan” and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on www.facebook.com/halfemptymom/.