As an adoptive parent (especially in Asia), be expected to answer questions. A lot of questions. Whether you like it or not, you have become an ambassador for adoption. Given that this is still a topic that most people here are ignorant or have misconceptions about, try to regard these questions as opportunities to educate. Most of the time, the questions come from good intentions or pure curiosity.
However, I can understand how these questions can feel intrusive and even offensive at times. This is why it’s good to “prep” for such scenarios so that you establish your personal boundaries clearly while not being overly defensive to others. Here are a few common questions that my husband and I have received as adoptive parents. I’ve accompanied them with some suggestions on how to approach them. Hopefully, this section provides a helpful starting point for your family to deal with these challenging adoption queries.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this question, especially if asked by family and close friends. However, there will be times when you will be asked this by strangers or acquaintances. Do not feel obliged to reveal any more than you are comfortable with. You don’t have to deny or lie, but coming up with a “generic” response will help safeguard a level of privacy that you’d like for your family.
- “My husband and I were not able to have a baby biologically and so we decided to adopt.” (No need to go into detailed infertility issues if you’re not comfortable talking about them.)
- “We’ve always been open to adopting and providing love and care to a child who needs it.”
2. Aren’t you afraid that this child will have illnesses or mental disorders that you won’t know about till later?
This was a question posed by our parents and close friends when we informed them of our decision to adopt. It initially angered us because it is an extremely hard-hitting question. Instead of getting into heated arguments with them, we came up with a levelled response that assured them that we were ready to be adoptive parents.
- “Illnesses and mental disorders are developments that we cannot control in life. Every parent, whether adoptive or biological, faces such uncertainties. We are committed to being the best parents we can to the child we intend to adopt and that means providing unconditional love and care no matter what happens.”
In Asia, many of us aren’t afraid of asking each other about our salaries or how much we paid for property and cars. As such, it is very common to be asked this, even by acquaintances, and they probably are unaware of how offensive this question can sound when framed this way. No, your child is not a commodity. As such, answer this question in a way that makes them (hopefully) realise this.
- “Do you mean to ask about what the adoption fees are like? About as much as giving birth to a child.”
4. Isn’t this child so lucky to have been adopted by you?
There’s this savior complex that surrounds the whole idea of adoption. People might tell you how noble or selfless you are to adopt. While this might seem flattering, it’s important to stay grounded and remind these people that adoption is a personal family decision that comes about through a variety of circumstances. At the end of the day, adoption is a blessing amidst a tragedy (separation from birth parents) and it is important as adoptive parents to be realistic about this aspect.
- “Actually, we’re the lucky ones to have the privilege for this child to join our family. His/her birth parents must have sacrificed so much to let him/her go. He/she has been such a blessing to our lives.”
5. Aren’t you afraid your adopted child will reject/leave you once he or she gets older?
Another “hot” question that often comes from older relatives. Given how filial piety is valued in this part of the world, this is how we’ve tried to allay their concerns. We’re not sure if our reply works, but they don’t probe further after this!
“We fully expect our son to leave us when he’s grown-up and lead his own life. We don’t expect him to take care of us in our older years. In the meantime, we intend to bring him up and provide for him the best way we can. We can’t control how he responds to us as parents as he gets older, but we will always love and support him.”
(Illustrations courtesy of David Liew)
Would love to hear how other adoptive parents deal with these questions – feel free to leave a comment!