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7 phrases NOT to say to an adoptive family—and what to say instead

6. "How are your own/real children handling your adoption/foster care?"

7 phrases NOT to say to an adoptive family—and what to say instead

“So how do you make sure the baby you get looks like you? How do you make sure he's white with blue eyes?" Our friend's voice was tender and caring, inquiring about our upcoming adoption, even though his questions cut through me like a dagger.

I remember thinking through my response slowly, explaining why a “look" was not something we were looking for. I shared that adoption won't ever be a secret or anything we are ashamed of, and that we will celebrate the beauty of diversity and embrace any culture into our family.

This was the first of countless, unintentionally offensive, anti-adoption conversations we have had since beginning our journey. I became a mama by adoption, so this journey is sacred to me. It's both tragic and beautiful, grievous and joyous. With one family's immense loss, another family gains their whole world.

Adoption can be beautiful and I've known since the get-go we were privileged to be pursuing it. I also knew it was a serious journey requiring delicate attention and a fierce love willing to get uncomfortable for the sake of our child. Me? I am so beyond blessed by adoption. I always say I'm the luckiest one of the bunch. It made me a mother. And adoption has made me a better person, through and through.

One of the most obvious problems regarding adoption in our culture today is the lack of positive or healthy language surrounding it. Words are so powerful, no matter the intent, and I am here to learn alongside you how to love everyone just a bit better.

Here are seven things not to say to an adopting or adoptive family, and what to say instead.

1. “How much did it cost?"

Whether you're asking about the adoption or the child, stop yourself. First, remember that children are not purchased. Second, ask yourself why you're asking this. This is actually no one's business and is quite possibly one of the most personal questions you could ask.

If you want to know more about adoption fees in general, and what that could look like for your family, ask something like this: "What are the average fees for domestic/international adoption?"

2. “Are you going to adopt a black baby?" Or to an existing transracial family: “Did you want to adopt a black/latino/asian/white/different-race baby?"

Again, ask yourself why you're asking this question. If you're genuinely wanting to learn more about other cultures and what challenges transracial families face, ask something like this: "Are you open to adopting transracially?" or "What are some ways I can celebrate you as a transracial family?"

3. “Do you also want/have children of your own?"

It is of utmost importance to realize children by adoption are absolutely our own children. What you could ask instead is, "Do you also want/have biological children?" if it is your business to ask at all.

4. “Did their parents die of AIDS?"

This is a question asked of so many white mamas raising black children. The first assumption is that our black children were born in another county where AIDS is prevalent. The next assumption is that AIDS is the only problem and there aren't any other reasons children might be placed for adoption.

Instead, don't ask this question. The details of their children's story as well as their birth family's stories aren't anyone's business.

5. “Is he your 'real' son?" or “Where is your 'real' dad?"

Oftentimes classmates who aren't familiar with adoption ask children of adoption or foster care where their real dad or mom is. I was recently talking to a teen adoptee who shared how frustrating and hurtful this is.

Every parent is real. Every child is real. No one is playing pretend family.

6. “How are your own/real children handling your adoption/foster care?"

Sometimes when families pursue adoption and foster care, they have biological children already in the home. If you are concerned about their processing the adoption or foster care and genuinely want to check in, ask "How are your biological kids adjusting and/or preparing for the addition to your family?"

7. Any sort of horror story.

For some reason, people love sharing the stories they've heard from Oprah or the neighbor down the street about a family falling apart. It's almost always pegged at the child who was adopted. This is far too common and extremely unloving, unfair, and not okay. Please don't share a story like this.

I love adoption. I love families by adoption and foster care. I also love everyone else and believe we can continue spreading positive and helpful awareness about adoption and foster care.

If you would like to read more about positive adoption language and what terms to use or not use, read Adoption 101: Positive Adoption Language.

We all love our friends and want to support them as best as possible, especially on such a journey as the adoptive or foster care journey. One very overlooked and immensely powerful way to do this is to brush up on what not to ask and what to ask or say instead.

Your hearts are beautiful, dear mama! And please know that your adopting friend is lucky and thankful to have a friend like you in her life—one that cares enough to get educated and learn how to best love adoptive families.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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