Talking about adoption: do’s & don’ts

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Many families include one or more children who are adopted. If you know someone with an adopted child, there are respectful ways to talk about it with them. And, if you have an adopted child, share these do’s and don’ts with friends and family members so they can be respectful to you.



DO: Use the terms “birth child,” “adopted child,” “birth parents” or “biological parents” only when necessary. This may be during a discussion about the adoption itself. Otherwise, simply use “child” and “parent” with no other description. Once a child is adopted, they are their parents’ child and are no different than a child that was born biologically to them.


DON’T: Use words like “real child,” “natural child,” “real parents” or “natural parents.” These terms can be hurtful to the family and imply that they don’t have a real relationship.



DO: Treat all siblings in a family the same. Parents love all their children equally, whether they were adopted or not.


DON’T: Bring up differences between adopted and biological children or refer to them as “adopted son” or “adopted daughter.” The word “adopted” is often not relevant or needed.



DO: Speak about birth parents as choosing to make the best decision for their child through adoption. Children need to know that their birth parents wanted the best for them.


DON’T: Say words like “put up” or “given up” for adoption. Also, don’t say “they chose not to keep” the child. This makes it sound like the birth parents didn’t care or didn’t want the child.



DO: Celebrate cultural or racial differences within a family.


DON’T: Ignore a child’s ethnicity, race or heritage. Children need support from family and friends to overcome stereotypes and racism.



DO: Support parents who choose to adopt. Adoption is a beautiful gift for both the child and parents. Understand that the parents may be overwhelmed after adoption and may have financial stress. They may also be anxious about having a new child in the family.


DON’T: Ask, “what did you pay for your child?” Children are not sold or bought. Adoption fees go toward social workers, court fees, paperwork, travel and other necessary expenses.


Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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