And what to ask instead……
1. Are they your kids?
Obviously, if they aren’t your kids, it’s an easy one. “Nope, these are my nephews. Or my neighbors kids are over while their mom is running to the grocery store.” But that’s not the usual situation. The usual situation where this question comes up is when it is obvious that you (the parent) are not biologically related to your kids – racial and ethnic colors and such are different.
Assuming that your kids are there with you, what do they hear? They hear someone questioning whether they are your kid and whether you’re going to stand up and say, “Absolutely, they are mine!”
So, from your kids standpoint, they need to hear you state emphatically that they are yours. It will do their hearts good to hear that.
What should “those people” ask instead? “I don’t believe that I’ve met this handsome young man before, can you introduce me?” Or, “the last time I ran into you at the grocery store, you only had one child with you, can you introduce me to the rest of your helpers?”
Turn it into a positive and an introductory event – not an inquisition that doesn’t respect the child’s privacy.
They will all thank you for it.
2. How much did they cost?
There are really only two reasons that someone would ever ask that question:
- They are really rude, obnoxious and self absorbed. They are also then going to ask their best friends what they paid for their Mercedes and how much their neighbor’s boat “set them back.”
- They, or someone they know, is seriously contemplating adopting and wants to know about costs.
How do you answer the question? The way I see it, you have two options:
1. If you think they are being rude and obnoxious, answer very nicely and sweetly something to the tune of “I’d pay a million dollars for each of my kids!” Kind of a nice way to say, “None of your business.”
2. If you think they might be seriously wondering about the cost of adoptions because they or someone they know is thinking about it, say, “You know, if you’re serious about adopting, I’d be happy to talk about the costs we had to make sure things were done right. Can I have your e-mail address and let’s talk later. How does that sound?
The first one says, it’s none of your business but your younger kids will here, “Mom or Dad says I’m worth a million dollars!”
The second one takes an honest request for information and says, “Let’s talk when the kids aren’t around.”
3. Why didn’t you adopt from here? What’s their story? (I know that’s two – but they are related.)
My wife and I adopted from Haiti and the way the question usually gets asked is, “Why did you pick Haiti?” As in, seriously with all of the kids in the United States who need a family, why did you go there? Related to that will be some sort of question wanting to know about the kids stories.
Why did we adopt from “there” rather than from here? That’s an individualized question and it’s a difficult one for an adoptive parent to answer. Not because they don’t know. It’s difficult because it requires that either an adoptive parent gets into some very private thoughts and feelings or the parent attempts to read the questioner and put them “off” if they feel like the questioner is being nosy.
What’s their story? Never. Don’t ask that. Ask questions like, “When did they come home?” “How long have they been part of your family?” But that’s not your business, it’s not your story. It’s the adopted child’s story, it’s their trauma and it’s their right to tell as much or as little as they want.
Now many adoptive families write about their journey online – and it helps many of the rest of us from not being and feeling alone. But almost every writer that I know who writes about their family, particularly adopted kids who might be struggling, walks a very fine and very hard line between alluding to the struggles but maintaining privacy. It’s hard but it’s important – don’t put the adoptive parents in a place where it’s hard to navigate that than it would be otherwise.
4. Are they siblings?
We get that question asked a lot – because our two Haitian kids are only one year apart in school.
My standard response is, “Well…… yeah! Of course.”
That typically makes the questioner feel a bit off key and say something like, “That’s not what I meant……”
But it quite often helps them realize that it’s frankly none of their business whether my kids have a blood relationship or not.
(And if you noticed, I’m not going to tell you whether they are or not……)
5. Do you have any of your own?
Seriously people, how shallow and hurtful can you be? Do you really want to stand in front of an adopted child, a child who was, through no fault of their own, abandoned by their birth family and ask their parents, “Do you have any of your own?”
Most adopted kids that I know have, at some point and to some degree, wrestled with the “where do I belong?” question. If you ask an adoptive parent – especially in front of their adopted kids, “do you have any of your own?” It’s like you are, in one question, planting another seed of doubt in the child’s heart. “Do I belong? Are they really my parents?”
Don’t do it.
Instead, ask, “do you have any additional children? “
Or ask the adopted child, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” Just be prepared, they might say, “I’ve got three brothers at home and then a brother and sister back in Ethiopia that we write letters to a lot.”
5 questions adoptive parents don’t want you to ask.
Next time we’ll cover 5 questions that adoptive parents want you to ask.
Coming tomorrow, 5 questions adoptive parents want you to ask.