Ten Things NOT to Say to Adoptive Parents.

A few days ago my 10 months pregnant friend at The Measured Mom posted a great list of things NOT to say to a pregnant woman, and politely suggest some alternatives.  I laughed out loud reading some of them, remembering how many of them were said to me — and, shamefully, how many I have said to my pregnant friends, since I have forgotten what it’s like to walk around with another human being inside of you!

When I’m with my fellow adoptive girlfriends, you will often hear us say, “Oh, you won’t believe this one!” as we share the latest offensive thing someone has said to us. But just as I’ve been guilty of saying, “You look like you’re ready to pop!” to my overdue pregnant friends without meaning to make them feel worse simply because I’ve only been pregnant once and have forgotten all about it, other well-meaning people say some of the things on this list simply because they’ve never adopted and don’t know what else to say…or not say.

So I collaborated with some other adoptive parents to come up with this following list:


1. “Now you’ll get pregnant!”

Perhaps your friend is adopting because of infertility, but adoption is not a fertility treatment — and your friend is most certainly not adopting because she thinks, “THIS will do the trick!” When you say this, it can also make your friend feel as though you’re not excited about her adoption and view it as a “second choice”.

2. “He’s so lucky!”

Adopted kids are anything but lucky. They have experienced the loss of a first family and perhaps even the loss of their birth country and language. These kids don’t feel “lucky” to come to America — they are grieving the loss of their home and everything that is familiar. When you say this, it glosses over that loss.

3. “How much did he cost?”

Our child is not a car. If you really need to know this, Google it.

4. “Can’t you just go and pick him up?”

Umm…no. Because that would be kidnapping.

I once saw someone make this comment when a girlfriend shared a post on Facebook about how much she was aching to hold her daughter in Congo. It took every ounce of self-restraint I had not to comment and say, “Because she wants her daughter to languish in an orphanage just a little while longer.” Adoptions are a complicated business and they take time, and it’s not because we adoptive parents aren’t doing everything in our power to move things along.

5. “We’ve always wanted to adopt. But first we are going to have a few of our own.”

Along these same lines are “Do you have any real kids?” or “Is your daughter your own, or is she adopted, too?” If you must differentiate between kids who are adopted and not adopted, terms such as “biological” or “birth children” are the ones to use. When you distinguish our bio kids by calling them “your own” or “the real kids”, then you make it seem as though the adopted child is not truly part of our family.

6. “Why didn’t you adopt from America? There’s plenty of kids here that need homes.”

Yes, this is true — but we are not obligated to only adopt from our own country. Should children from Ukraine/China/Ethiopia/Congo/etc. be disqualified simply because they aren’t from here (and have no one available in their birth country to parent them)? Adoption from ANYWHERE should be celebrated.

7. “Don’t adopt from Ukraine. My neighbor’s second cousin’s uncle did, and their kids were totally messed up from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.”

What I mean by this is, when someone tells you she’s adopting, don’t share with her your adoption horror stories. Adoptive parents are required to go through adoption training. They are well aware of the challenges they may face and don’t need you to point them out.

8. “I totally know what you’re going through. I adopted a dog once.”

It’s not the same. I promise.

9. “What happened to his real mom?”

 I’m his real mom. A better way to distinguish me from his first mom is to use the term “birth mom”, because when you say it this way it demeans the importance of my role in my child’s life. And unless you are close friends with the person you’re asking this to, it’s best to respect the privacy of their child’s story and not even go there. You wouldn’t really approach a perfect stranger and ask her to share the details of her labor, would you?

10. “Are you worried he is going to have HIV/be retarded/be messed up?” and/or “Are you worried he will be black?” 

These are all things that have been said to my friends or myself. For real. I hope I don’t have to explain to you why they are offensive.

But let’s end positively, shall we? Here’s a few things to try instead…

1. “You are so lucky to have him.”

An older lady once said this to me at the coop, and I promptly turned into a blubbering mess because I truly did feel grateful to have him. I so appreciated how she acknowledged that HE is the gift.

2. “Tell me about your son.”

Adoptive parents are dying to talk to you about the child they’re expecting. They want to tell you about the nursery/bedroom they’re getting ready and show you the latest picture. But we don’t get to do that very often because we don’t have bulging bellies that give us away. And sometimes, people feel awkward around us so they don’t ask us about our kids. Ask us!  We are proud parents, and we want to tell you why!

3. “I’m throwing you a shower.”

Baby showers aren’t just for moms who are giving birth — or even for families who are adopting newborns. Adoption is STRESSFUL in SO MANY INEXPLICABLE WAYS. Give your friend the chance to celebrate and feel like the expecting mom that she is! 

4. “You are all in my prayers.”

This old stand by is a good one. Adoptive children are dealing with grief and trauma, people. Our families need your prayers to heal from this!

5. “You are doing a great job.”

Adoptive parents often feel guilty and beat themselves up. Parenting techniques that worked with our bio kids may not work for our adoptive kids, and there may be days where we feel as though we are complete failures. I’ve had to come to terms with a lot of my own baggage and imperfections and accept that I’m not always in control in BIG WAYS since becoming an adoptive mm. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when a friend says something along the lines of, “You’re doing such a wonderful job.” or “I can tell how much he loves you.”

6. “I’m bringing you dinner.

This may be overlooked because your friend is adopting a five-year-old and it’s not as though she just delivered a baby. But….YOUR FRIEND IS ADOPTING A FIVE-YEAR-OLD. Whether or not her family is growing by one newborn or one teenager, her family is growing and it is going to be chaotic for her. So bring her dinner.

7. “Congratulations!”

We’re excited and it means a lot to us when you recognize that.

Okay, adoptive parents — what did I miss? Is there anything that was jaw-droppingly offensive that someone said to you OR something someone said that really made your day? Share it in the comments!

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How do you respond to comments? Join the conversation!



  1. The worst comment I received was from a coworker who was surprised that I was back at work and not an emotional mess. She told me that most women have a hard time leaving their babies. I explained that i don’t like to be a mess at work. She then asked “do you think its because you didn’t carry her?” Yup thats the reason! I clearly don’t love my daughter as much you love your bio kids.

  2. Tabitha Bachew says:

    Yes, basically all of those things have been said to me before and some. We had several people say, “Don’t adopt a toddler! Get an infant that way he will only love you!”

  3. I am a pediatric dentist and see many families with adopted children. I always try to be very sensitive to the parent’s feelings and not say anything potentially offensive. My husband was adopted. Do you think it’s ok to share this information with them?? I only say it to let them know how wonderful I think it is… I always wonder what they think though & don’t want it to be annoying.

  4. We adopted twins and then a year later got pregnant. Someone then proceeded to ask my mother-in-law, “…what are they going to do with the other two…?…”

    People are crazy

  5. Bio**** children we may have.

  6. My husband and i are about three weeks away from finalizing the adoption of his two nephews (his younger sisters’s kids), that we have been fostering for over two years. It always upsets me when people act happy about it, then turn around and ask when we are having a child of our own, like they aren’t good enough because they aren’t ours biologically. The worst I’ve heard is “you know that if you have any of your own kids, they will be kind of inbred since they will be cousins asks siblings” just because they are my husband biological nephews does not mean that they and and boo children we may have will be inbred

  7. something said to me: ”
    oh, it’s a shame he couldn’t be with his real mother”….

  8. I always feel humor is the best way to deal with people. My sister is 5′ blond and blue eyed. I am 5’8″ with brown hair and eyes. We are biological sisters but people would ask all he time, ” Same parents?!?” I would reply, ” Well, that’s what they tell us but I am starting to think there was a switch at the hospital!”

    For Margot Ryan, who had someone (moron) ask where she bought her child, I would have said “There is this cute store on 7th and Main. They’re having a sale today. You should hurry, they still have some cute ones left!”


  1. […] couple of weeks ago, I blogged about things that are often said to adoptive parents, ranging from innocent, well-meaning statements to ones that are downright […]

  2. […] Ten Things NOT to Say to Adoptive Parents      My friend, an adoptive mother, shared this post. If I could have a handbook on how to […]

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