When Speaking to Adoptive Parents About Adoption
Ask Me Anything Column: Dishing out AdopTEA RealiTEA one article at a time via The Real Adoptea Moxie
Ask Me Anything:
When Speaking to Adoptive Parents About Adoption
"I'm not an adoptee and will never likely adopt, especially at this point in my life. I remember one of my friends, an adoptee, barely opening up about his disdain for his adoptive parents. That was the beginning of my disillusionment with the fairy tale. I feel very blessed that he was comfortable enough to share even some with me. I have read a good bit from you and others."
How should I interact with adoptive parents that I know?
I'm not saying any of them seem like inadequate parents or anything like that, but even with the finest intentions, adoptees have so much loss and need. Most of these parents are white, many with black and other children of color, some of whom were adopted internationally. How can I help be a real friend to these parents by helping them do their best for their kids? Should I just be quiet and hope the kids get what they need? It's a sensitive thing to question anyone's parenting.
If you have any advice, I will be open to receiving it. Thank you for all you do. - Concerned Anonymous Ally
Dear Concerned Anonymous Ally,
Firstly, I commend you for asking such a thought-out question to bring the truth to light about the realities of adoption. Unfortunately, it's scarce that we get this from non-adopted people, so please know that it means a lot to the adoptee community that you want to help in this way.
Any topic we feel passionate about is a conversation worth bringing to the table, and sometimes it's not what you say but how you say it. The adoptee community needs allies like you who aren't adopted to step in the gap and help educate people on the realities of adoption.
Secondly, I feel that the key to hosting a conversation about adoption with adoptive parents is for them to open up to the idea of having a conversation. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that not all adoptive parents are open to receiving this information, so the way it is framed could help for a more positive outcome in opening the door for the conversation to happen.
I've had positive and negative experiences communicating with adoptive parents, and I've learned a lot from each experience. But unfortunately, I used to "sell myself short" when it came to not having the gift of being able to discuss adoption-related topics with them.
I learned through experience that I do have the gift; however, anytime I felt like I didn't have it, it was because the adoptive parent I was communicating with did not want to receive the message. I wasted a lot of time and energy before I figured this out. After dealing with this dynamic a few times, I learned that the conversation was welcomed and appreciated anytime the adoptive parent wanted to receive the message. I can also share that the tides are turning, and I’m seeing an increase in adoptive parents starting to have the willingness to listen, thankfully.
I wrote an article about this topic: When Adoptive Parents Have the Willingness to Listen.
And another: The Raw Resentment I Have Carried for Most Adoptive Parents and What Changed.
That said, I agree it's a slippery slope when addressing someone about parenting if it's received that way. Still, you are hoping to have conversations with others in the adoption constellation about adoption because you have learned there is much more to the side of the coin that's almost always ignored, the adoptee’s lived experience. It’s no secret that adopted adults hold enormous value to the adoption constellation, yet others overshadow our experiences in the adoption arena.
The information you want to share could save an adoptee's life and open up the adoptive parents' eyes to some tools if they choose to receive the message. I believe trying is better than nothing, and remaining silent is complicit. With adoptees being overrepresented in prisons, jails, mental health, and treatment facilities and 4x more likely to attempt suicide, none of us can afford to be silent.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
What is the best chance you have of adoptive parents receiving the message?
A few ideas come to mind:
I would reach out to them directly by call, email, text, or preferably in person because conversations seem more well received when meeting in person via the internet. I would say something simple like, "Hey _______; I hope you are doing well! I wanted to explore the possibility of discussing adoption-related resources I have learned about that might be of value to you. Would you be interested in setting up a day or time that works for both of us to discuss this?"
Depending on their response would depend on if the conversation moves forward. If they say "No" or pass on the idea, that is your answer. On the other hand, you could respond, "No pressure, my friend, but let me know if you change your mind! I would also be happy to share these resources in the future."
This gives them total control over receiving or rejecting the conversation and removes you from offering unsolicited advice that isn't always welcomed or appreciated. Years ago, I stopped giving my advice when it was not welcomed because I was wasting my time. Our time is one of our most valuable things, so I will not waste any more time in this area.
Most people can go further in difficult conversations by removing their personal opinion and inserting resources that focus on the resource vs. you and your opinion. This would remove you from the "hot seat" that could be created otherwise. It would be different if you were an adoptee with the lived experience because, in that case, lived experience is immensely beneficial. Once the resource is shared, you could open up to what you have learned from all of your research on the adoptee experience. The resource would act as a cushion of sorts and spark conversations.
If the opportunity arises for a conversation, I suggest some of the resources listed on my website's Recommended Resources for Adoptees & Adoption Advocates tab. I have put this together for conversations like the ones you are hoping to have, as well as for adoptees and anyone who knows or loves them to help gain a deeper understanding of the adoptee experience. Also, so that you know, you are free to share any of these resources and articles on your social media to spark conversations and dialog about topics related to the adoptee experience.
Below I will be sure to link a few of the most popular articles that could be helpful to you. In addition, on the recommended resources tab, you will see different selections of documentaries, articles, collaborations, transracial & transnational resources, studies and research articles, reunion resources, etc. Please share this list broadly because that one share could impact an adoptee's life forever, not to mention open conversations that might help adoptive parents and everyone who knows and loves them.
Also, transracial and transnational adoptees hold many unique layers to the adoptee experience that other adoptees don’t. You will find many resources on this topic on my website.
Again, thank you for asking such a valuable question.
Hopefully, more non-adopted individuals will continue to step in the gap to help a deeper level of the adoptee experience be understood more profoundly. Never underestimate the power of planting a seed. If the conversation doesn’t happen right away, they could reconsider at another time in the future. You can also share my platform with them, and they can take advantage of asking me anything. Using my painful experience to help others has been one of my most extraordinary callings, and I am happy to help.
For my fellow adoptees and subscribers, I would love to hear your thoughts on this question in the comment section below. Are you one of my subscribers, and do you have a question for me? Email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will consider asking it in the future.
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Understanding is Love,
Pamela A. Karanova
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