Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Repost: Extending Grace in Adoption

Today I thought I would repost a popular topic among adoptive families: how to navigate people's comments and sometimes insensitive questions about adoption. Every adoptive family I know could tell at least a dozen stories of moments someone made a comment that made them cringe. Knowing how to respond with grace and confidence can help you not only help others see the beauty of adoption, but also protect and honor your child and their story...

Adoptive families have a lot to navigate. On top of the complex adoption process, they find themselves involved in intimate and awkward conversations everywhere:
Grocery store clerk: I just love her hair - is she from Africa? 
Woman in elevator: Oh, he's adopted? Are you infertile? 
Child at a park: Is she your real mom? 
Co-worker: Was the mom a drug addict or something? 
Friend at a party: So, how much did they cost?
You get the drift.

So how do you maneuver these comments and conversations without losing your mind, extending grace, and still protecting your child? Here's a few tips...

Assume the best
Most people making comments are simply making conversation. Their comment is usually meant to be as benign as talking about the weather. Although sometimes incredibly hurtful or insensitive, assuming someone isn't trying to be hurtful or insensitive is half the battle. Offering the benefit of the doubt can go a long way.

Offer explanations and education
It's my experience that almost all insensitive comments are made from simple ignorance and not from a place of wanting to create hurt or offense. I love when I see adoptive families take the opportunity to educate rather than take offense. Using positive adoption language and gently reframing their question does much more to offer education than a harsh reprimand ever could. 

Set boundaries
In all of this (offering grace as well as explanations and education), remember that it's also ok, even crucial, to create boundaries. Ultimately, you are the keeper of your child's story. The story of their beginnings and adoption is not one you want to share in detail with the grocer or maybe even a friend. It's ok to keep information confidential within your family and protect it from others.

Invite others into your story
In adoption, sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the "us versus them" mentality when people are categorized into those that "get it" and those that don't. Instead, wouldn't it be wonderful to invite others into the beauty of adoption? Having a posture of invitation rather than defensiveness releases your child from being the poster child for some kind of adoption cause and instead works as an example of how God continues the redemptive work of adoption.

In light of these thoughts, what if the conversations looked like this?

Grocery store clerk: I just love her hair - is she from Africa?
Adoptive parent: We love her hair too! She was actually adopted domestically. 

Woman in elevator: Oh, he's adopted? Are you infertile? 
Adoptive parent: Yes - he is adopted. And we decided that adoption was a great way to grow our family! 

Child at a park: Are you his real mom? 
Adoptive Parent: I sure am!  (Depending on the setting or person, this might be a great time to talk about the different ways God grows families and the differences and similarities of biological and adoptive parents. Usually though, such a small response is sufficient.)

Co-worker: Was the mom a drug addict or something? 
Adoptive parent: We consider information about her birth mother private but we can tell you we think she's an incredibly brave and selfless woman. 

Friend at a party: So, how much did they cost? 
Adoptive parent: Each adoption has costs to ensure the birth family gets the best support and counseling and a legal and ethical process is followed. I'd be happy to point you to some resources for more information.

Admittedly, there will be many comments that will make you bite your tongue and want to cover your child's ears. But assuming the best of others, offering education, and inviting others into your story is an amazing opportunity to extend grace in adoption.

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