Five Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents

When you are an adoptive parent, nothing prepares you for the cringeworthy things people say. Keep in mind, everyone is well-intended, but that doesn’t mean words don’t leave us feeling a certain way. My typical stance is to smile and not correct, but there are a lot of things I am telling that person (probably not so nicely) in my head. What I do know is that adoption is messy and beautiful. Adoption shows that love truly is what makes family. I’m sharing with you five things not to say to adoptive parents and what you can say instead.

Words are powerful, and they are also often misused. Sometimes it is impossible to tell someone something or ask questions without offending, but we should still try. Stopping to think about how your words will impact someone will help in most situations, especially adoption. You may know someone who has adopted or is in the process of adopting. My hope is that you will be able to communicate your encouragement and excitement for those people in a supportive way by staying away from certain misconceptions

Real Parents

The concept of real parents is insulting. People with pets didn’t birth them, but still feel like they are their real furry children. When you think about who your parents are, do you focus on your experience in the delivery room? Unless you are super-human and can remember that time, I am pretty sure you think about your upbringing and who was there for that. Those people are your real parents.

Talking about the important people of a child’s life can be tricky. If you are wanting to know more about the child’s background, and feel comfortable, then ask the parents what terms they use. For us, we say birth people. Other phrases may be biological parents, birth parents, or other variations. The point is that each family has a specific vocabulary and asking will do much less harm than assuming. Most importantly, know that the people raising that child are very much, their real parents.

Do You Ever Want Your Own Kids?

My sweet grandmother made this mistake while we were in the middle of the adoption process. It was the first time in my life when I could have slapped her. I had to remind myself that she came from a different era where adoption was secretive and almost controversial. After being the mom of my son for over three years now, I can tell you he is and has always been my own. There is a beautiful quote that summarizes this concept perfectly.

“There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child; and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own.” – Robert Brault

Children who have been placed for adoption may not have been birthed by their mothers, but they certainly became a part of them since the beginning they knew of them. The love of a mother knows no boundaries and that applies to all mothers.

Given Up for Adoption

I tear up every time I hear this one. My son was not given up. A very brave woman made an extremely hard decision to entrust him to adoptive parents who will love and cherish him always. Deciding to place for adoption is not giving a child up, it is making a loving decision. If you have to put a label on it, you could say placed for adoption, but again, talk to the family for best ways to say this.

We are so in love with our little man and don’t look at him as our adopted son. Sandra Bullock was spot on when she mentioned we don’t call children IVF babies or other labels for how children are conceived. Our children are our children and simply calling them that will always be best.

Your Child is so Lucky

I really struggle with this one. People do mean well when they say this, but if you really think about what this implies, it implies this idea that children who have been adopted are lucky because they were deemed worthy of a family. I can assure you, the parents are the lucky ones. We get to call these precious littles ours. We get the privilege of raising these important people.

If you are trying to share how blessed you feel the family is, then try telling them how lucky they are to have found each other. These children are the blessings and whomever gets to be in their lives will always be the luckiest.

There is a lot to remember, but if you focus on the basics, you’ll see that adoption is just parents loving on their real children. No labels necessary and no judgment needed.

Now that you know five things not to say to adoptive parents read more from Jessica’s story here. 


I am a working mom who left the education world after 7 years to pursue my business career. I work as a product developer at a local insurance company and love it. My husband and sons are my world. We struggled for 3 years with fertility prior to adopting our first son. Later, we really wanted him to have a sibling so pursued IVF using donor embryos (because we firmly believe love makes a family) and were then blessed with our second son. When I’m not working or playing the wife/mom role, I love to run, read, bake, write, and tinker with photography. We all have a story to share and I hope some of my experiences will help others.


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