International adoption by families in the United States has increased tremendously in the last decade, adding to America's reputation as a melting pot on an even more familial level. Parents and children of these families are sure to encounter numerous questions which must be answered carefully to avoid damaging a child's sense of self and instead foster love, acceptance, and belonging.
So just what are the best ways for parents to answer questions about a child's adoption? (And what questions should the rest of us avoid asking?) Read on for a list of the "do's and don'ts."
What You Should Do
Do treat her like any other kid.
It may be difficult and take a while for adopted children to feel like they belong within their extended families. Treating these children like they're "nothing special" can go a long way toward making them feel at home and comfortable within the group.
Avoid the temptation to spoil her because she didn't have everything that the other kids had in the first few months or years of her life. The most valuable gifts you can offer these children are patience, routine, and consistency—and most of all, unexaggerated expressions of love and devotion.
Do support him when curious strangers ask questions.
When curious (and sometimes thoughtless) strangers ask questions or feel the need to comment on the circumstances of the adoption, do not let them lead you into uncomfortable territory. Instead, gently steer them back to more suitable small talk or respond in such a way that shifts the conversation to positive adoption language that in turn lets the child know that you are on his side.
Do respect her privacy.
Adopted children have the same need for and the right to privacy as you do. They do not want their entire life story being told to strangers. If she hears you discussing the intimate details of her origins, she will likely feel embarrassed. Until the child is old enough to decide for herself how much information she would like to share regarding her background, please respect her privacy.
Do treat prospective adoptive parents the same as expectant parents.
Adopting a child is just as exciting for soon-to-be parents as being pregnant. They feel the same way all expectant parents do—overjoyed, overwhelmed, nervous, impatient, and most of all, excited. Don't be afraid to ask adopting parents about these feelings. After all, adoption is neither a secret nor a source of embarrassment or shame.