Three Of The Most Annoying Things You Can Say To An Adoptee

adoptee language1. “So your parents aren’t your real parents?”

The first question is…what is your definition of real? If real is somehow supposed to translate into biological, then yes, whoever asks this question to adoptees is stating a fact. But as an adoptee myself, my adoptive parents are my “real” parents. They are the ones who raised me, who gave me a roof over my head, fed me three meals a day, plus snacks and dessert! Just a friendly reminder to think about the questions you ask, the vocabulary you decide to use, and the effects they have on other people. Asking, “so your parents aren’t your real parents?” and “so your parents aren’t your biological parents?” create two very different reactions.

2. “I wish I was adopted; you’re lucky.”

It’s not so much luck as it is reality. I feel very lucky to have been adopted and raised in a loving family, but to wish you were adopted is probably a sentence that many don’t think about too often. A wish is a big deal, many times people wish for happy things; miracles. An orphan may wish to be adopted, but someone who has a loving family already … should they wish for something else? Spend time with the people who love you, and that you love. DNA doesn’t create a family; so whoever you consider to be family, spend time with them. This makes me lucky, surrounding myself with love, support, and laughter – people who care.

3. “You look just like your adoptive parent”

Since when do black and white look alike? Yes, sometimes the adoptee does look a lot like the adoptive parent; but other times there is no physical resemblance. I think, what people might think when saying, “you look just like your adoptive parent” is they are giving the adoptee a compliment, just as they would say to a biological child. If there is one thing to learn from this, it is that we cannot be colorblind. The issue of colorblindness is a hot topic in today’s news. It is just something we need to be aware of. We are all beautiful people and we don’t all look alike; lets accept that.

What do these three things have in common?

These three things are things that some non-adoptees say to people who were adopted. They may not seem offensive or wrong to ask, but we must always first think about the words we use. Stop and think about a different way to ask a question or make a statement — the best adoptee language. Sometimes all it takes is a word change to make a sentence less invasive. You may be reading this and thinking, “Oh no, I have said this before.” That’s okay, because you are reading this now and hopefully will learn for the next time you talk with an adoptee about adoption and identity. This blog was not written to shame its readers. It was written to promote awareness on what we say, how we ask, and what the adoptee sometimes feels in response. If you only take away one thing from this blog, let it be this: remember to be aware of what you say, and how you say it. We all make mistakes, and we all learn from them – that’s called life, and we’re all in it together.


Written By Maya Rogers-Bursen
Boston Post Adoption Resources

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About Maya Rogers-Bursen, LMHC, Expressive Therapist

Maya Rogers-Bursen, LMHC, ATR, Expressive Therapist, is a clinician at Boston Post Adoption Resources. To read her bio, please visit BPAR's Team page.