Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Things NOT to Say to Adoptees & What to Say Instead


Things Not To Say To Adoptees
(Please Add Your Thoughts and/or response in
the Comment Section at the bottom of this posting)

1. You're special because you're adopted
What you could say instead: You are adopted and this means you are now part of our family and we embrace you. You are a part of your first family too and maybe someday you will meet your first parents.
2. You were chosen
What you might consider saying instead: You were given to us to be our child to raise by your first parents because they didn't have the tools when you were born to take care of you. Your first parents thought that we could help you and love you and raise you because we have the tools now to take care of you and to help you be the best you you can be. This doesn't mean that your first mom and dad don't love you. All babies and children are loveable. For now as you grow up we have the privilege of raising you as our child and some day, if you want, maybe you will meet your first parents.
3. Your mother loved you so much that she gave you up
A more compassionate and honest response might be: Your mother loved you and I know that if she could have kept you that she would have kept you. Your first mother will always love you and think of you. For now she just isn't able to take care of you. Her choice to give you to us to raise is not a reflection of who you are or a measure of how much you are loved. You are loved and there are two families now that embrace you. One could tell more of the birth story here...And about the birth mother...
4. You're lucky
Things to consider: Luck has nothing to do with it. Saying you're lucky is like saying it is a wonderful thing to not know where you come from and then consequently not know who you are as the history and heritage stories and knowledge are absent. What should be said instead is a sharing of information in an effort to educate others. For the adoptee one should never say this to them, but instead an inquiry to them of something like the following might work: What do you think or feel about being adopted? What has been challenging in your experience being adopted? What has been hopeful? What has been hurtful?
5. Being Adopted Doesn't Matter
What a way to make someone feel invisible by discounting their experience and life circumstances. Say...being adopted must matter; how does it matter to you?
6. You should be angry.
Oh REALLY????
Things to consider thinking about and saying instead: Being angry is a healthy thing as it empowers one to come to terms with their life circumstances. It is natural to be angry in a situation like this as decisions were made that affected the adoptees whole life and internal world and sense of self. Yes, anger comes with the territory and if expressed and channeled in a healthy manner can indeed empower the individual to change, understand, and strengthen their sense of self and the control in their own lives. How about asking: Has being adopted made you angry?

7. You shouldn’t be sad.
Well, we all know that no one likes to be “should” upon. There are no shoulds when it comes to feelings. Feelings are what they are. Asking an adoptee not to be sad is denying them the grief that they need to express as an outcome of the adoption experience. Being sad and expressing feelings of grief is the healthiest thing one can do. To deny them this process and emoting is to deny the tremendous losses that come with the adoption experience. As the adoptee finds their first families new losses emerge in their consciousness and new grief is experienced. As one goes through their life course and experiences things like the birth of a child, the birth of a grandchild, marriage, health challenges or other experiences these feelings of loss and grief resurface. Feelings of sadness come out at unexpected times, in reactions to things that make adoptees feel puzzled, and even when one is still and quiet and the feelings have no concrete preceding cause that makes sense. Grief and sadness are part of this experience and expressing and feeling these lessens their grip on us. I feel that the grief piece will never quite disappear, but by expressing it we lessen its grip and depth.
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief”
–William Shakespeare
One could ask instead: Have you had to grieve because of losing your first family? How has being adopted made you sad? Has adoption made you sad?

8. By finding her you are invading her life.
Perhaps. And yet without finding her I might never find my self. My birth brought our lives together in a intertwining that holds us together stronger than any other connection I may have in my life. The invasion happened when I was severed from her and adopted into another family and made to adapt and bend to find success in that family. It would be surprising to find that in some way and on a very frequent basis, the memory of my birth and existence doesn’t invade her on some level. She gave birth and for this she forever has the responsibility to respond in some way to the child she brought into this world. This is called taking responsibility for my actions. One could ask instead: How do you think your first mother will respond to your contacting her? Will she be surprised or feel as if her life will be interrupted after so many years after relincquishment? The question asker should also do some inner pondering if they have a negative stance to adoption, reunion, or birth mothers. What is it that disallows them empathy and compassion in these questions?
To be continued...
(Things Not To Say orginated on the Adoption Crossroads website. I have reprinted it in part here on my blog with Joe Soll's permission. I have added the response alternatives to the list.)

4 Comments:

Blogger Wraiths said...

The "you are lucky" always gets me.

The big one is when (adoptive) parents or friends say "We/they loved you as if you were our/their own."

7:08 PM  
Blogger Marie Jarrell said...

Awesome list! Why do I get the feeling that this litany was carefully scripted by authorities of the adoption machine to be repeated over and over ad nauseum, counting on the hypnotic effect to hide our true feelings from us? It makes me ill to read it, although I've heard all of it so many times I should be "used to it" by now. All except the part about "maybe someday you will meet your first parents." That part I never heard, although it was the part I most longed to hear.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Wraiths said...

love the list, hate the phrases

8:47 PM  
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1:24 PM  

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