When a woman is pregnant, she'll share the news with her family and friends with a set date. But when a family chooses adoption to grow their family, the decision of when and how to share the news is more complicated, given that the adoption process is uncertain with no set time for a "due date." What's more, some families are not sure how to share their adoption journey if those around them have negative opinions or some preconceived notions about what it means to adopt. The following are a few tips to keep in mind when telling family and friends about your adoption.
Sharing Your Adoption and When
It is important for those close to you to know that you have taken time to consider adoption. Keep in mind, you had questions and concerns yourself when you started this process. Their questions are probably similar to yours. Be prepared to take time to answer them and to allay fears of the adoption process. Reassure them that you have thoroughly researched adoption and are working with licensed professionals. There is no exact time to tell them about your adoption because every adoption is different. Many families choose to tell their closest friends and relatives about their decision early on while others prefer to wait until the later stages of the process. The choice of telling people and when it’s a personal one will depend on your circumstances, the details of the adoption, and your relationships with those around you.
Give Them Time to Adjust
Most of your loved ones will want to be thrilled when they hear you are trying to become a parent or that you are thinking about enlarging your family through adoption. If they are less than excited, allow them time to accept the change. Their concerns may temporarily override their excitement. Keep talking about the changes that are coming and the exciting family events in their future.
Explain Privacy vs Secrecy
While many Adoptive Parents will share the general details of their adoption with those around them, most will not share all of the specific details about their child’s history or that of their Birth Parents with everyone. Many adoption professionals suggest that these specific details remain with you and as you share your child’s adoption story with them as they grow up, to let them decide who will know their history and the circumstances of their adoption.
Include Your Family in Preparations
Ask your family if they would like to help prepare for your child’s arrival. They can be the designated person(s) to help you during the delivery and set things up while you are traveling to bring your child home. They can help you start a photo album with extended family, and create pages to be filled in later once your child arrives. You can plan for them to help during the first weeks at home or to lend a hand in childcare.
You will assume the role of adoption educator since you may know more about adoption than anyone else in your circle. Some people may ask questions based on their lack of knowledge about adoption, others may think they have all the answers because of something they've read, seen on TV, or heard from a friend. You will be the one to debunk and demystify these myths. This is a good opportunity to set the record straight about certain issues of adoption, and to draw the line when you feel a question or comment is too nosy, rude, or personal.
While you can’t control other people’s comments or adoption questions, there are ways to deal with them. Below are adoption questions commonly asked and examples of different ways to answer each question.
“Is that your adopted kid?”
Give specific information – “Yes.”
Refocus the situation – “I am her adoptive mother.”
Use humor – “Kids are kids—I don’t like adjectives.”
“How much did you have to pay for him?”
Give specific information – “I paid for specific adoption services.”
Refocus the situation – “We don’t talk about that.”
Use humor – “He is priceless.”
Have a decoy – “If you put a price tag on kids, no one would become a parent.”
“Where is her real mother?”
Give specific information – “Assuming you mean her birthmother, she’s in Arkansas.”
Refocus the situation – “We only discuss that with close family.”
Use humor – “Umm, I’m right here!!”
“She has your eyes.”
Give specific information – “Yep, they are the same shape and/or color.”
Refocus the situation – Thanks, but she actually doesn’t look anything like me.”
Use humor – “We both have two.”
“You are such a good person.”
Give specific information – “Actually, we were lucky to find each other.”
Have a decoy – “All parents should be good people.”
“All birthparents have issues.”
Give specific information – “Actually, everyone has issues.”
Refocus the situation – “We were lucky to be chosen to parent.”
Use humor – “Don’t we all?”
Have a decoy – “Not a question she discusses with just anyone.”
“You went where? Why didn’t you just adopt from foster care?”
Give specific information – “We considered all of our options and chose ___.”
Refocus the situation – “What would you do in the same situation?”
Use humor – “Oh, we wanted the hardest process possible.”
Have a decoy – “I would have done the same thing.”
“I didn’t know you even wanted kids.”
Give specific information – “Yes, we have wanted kids for many years.”
Refocus the situation – “Most people don’t talk about their childbearing years. Did you?”
Use humor – “We wanted lots of things. Kids was one of the ones we were successful in accomplishing.”
“I wouldn’t want to risk raising someone else’s kid.”
Give specific information – “We had enough information to make an educated choice.”
Refocus the situation – “I love my nieces and nephews. I would raise them in a flash if given the opportunity.”
Use humor – “Thank goodness you don’t have to.”
Sometimes when you have a family member or a dear friend making insensitive or rude remarks, you may want to address with more than a quick response. Click here to read an article from Adoptive Families that gives advice from a panel of experts on navigating tricky conversations with those closest to you.
It is a good idea to think through situations and practice responses. Your responses will also teach your child and others how to answer questions, deal with people’s reactions, and how to clarify adoption. If you find that you didn’t have an effective response or think that you might have handled a situation more appropriately, talk to your child after you have had time to think it through and explain what would have been better way to respond. You will improve with time. Your child will learn what to say and what to keep private. And both of you will be ambassadors for adoption.
If you have any questions about sharing your adoption, please feel free to contact us so we can answer all of your adoption-related questions while you begin your adoption journey!