After deciding that adoption is the right choice for building
your family, you naturally want everyone to be as excited as you.
Unfortunately, this may not happen.
This excellent article by Dawn at Creating a Family will help you
bring understanding to hesitant or resistant friends and family.
While you are at the screaming it from the roof top stage, your
parents, siblings and extended family may be at the "Slow down
and consider your options" stage or the "Are you nuts" stage.
Remember that your decision to adopt evolved over time after much
researching, soul searching, discussing, and praying. Unless
you've shared every step of this journey with them, your family
has not had the benefit of this process. So while it might be
nice if they were totally psyched about your adoption, it's
probably unfair to expect them to be at the same place as you.
So what do you do if your family doesn't share your excitement
about your adoption plans? First, if you think you may get a
less than enthusiastic response, consider writing your family a
letter telling them of your decision before you talk with them in
person. We chose this approach with my husband's parents. They
like to think about things and discuss it between themselves
before talking with others, so a letter gave them this
opportunity. Also, a letter allowed us to explain our reasons,
and set the stage for their response by telling them how excited
If you tell them in person, think about what you want to say and
choose your words carefully. One friend reported that she
started the conversation with "I've got great news!" Her parents
assumed she was going to tell them she was pregnant, and their
initial response at learning of the adoption was less than she
had hoped. They recouped quickly, however, and are now doting
grandparents to her two children.
There is no one right way to handle negative responses to your
adoption plans, but the first step is to really listen to your
family's concerns. So often in conversations, we are plotting
our response instead of hearing what the other person is saying.
Any of the following may be concerns that are getting in the way
of their wholehearted support.
• Are they struggling with the basic concept of adoption and
think that you'll be a glorified babysitter?
• Are they worried about the loss of their bloodline
continuing into the future?
• Are they grieving the loss of their biological grandchild
that would have reminded them of you when you were a baby?
• Are they concerned about the race or ethnicity of your
child, and how that will affect you -and them?
• Do they think adopted children have lots of physical,
emotional, and behavioral problems?
• Are they worried about the cost and the subsequent financial
burden you will carry?
• Are they concerned that you are too old to become a parent.
• Do they think that this adoption will hurt your biological
Don't assume you know what they are thinking; ask them to tell
After you understand their concerns, present them with
information on adoption. Share the books you've read and
highlight the sections you want them to read. Stress to them
that this was not a decision you made lightly. It may help to
tell them some of your journey to adoption and the research you
have done. This is especially helpful if you have not shared all
the steps along the way with them. Let them know that you too
have some concerns and fears about adopting. Sometimes, just
knowing that you are a little bit afraid, frees them up to be
supportive. And most important, specifically ask for your
family's support. Explain how important it is to you and your
child-their grandchild. I think we underestimate this last step,
just assuming that it is a given.
For example, if your father is concerned that your child to-be is
of a different race, it may help to explain some of the research
on how transracially adopted children and families fare. Let him
know that many families are adopting transracially so your family
will not be so rare. Explain the education you are getting to
help prepare you for the issues that may arise. Let him know
your worries about being able to help your child as she grows.
Ask for his support. Tell him how much he means to you, and that
you are looking forward to seeing his relationship with his
granddaughter develop. Remind him of how much your connection
(or lack thereof) with your grandparents meant to you in your
To help normalize the experience, invite your family to join you
at an adoption support group meeting or invite them to a picnic
with another family who adopted kids from the same country. Just
realizing that kids are kids regardless where they come from or
how they join the family may help.
Throughout this time, if necessary, gently let them know that
while you are open to questions, you are not open to them trying
to change your mind. If they are not receptive to this, give
them time and yourself space.
Once your child arrives, most extended families fall in love and
their original concerns fade away. However, you need to be
prepared that this may not happen. Be very clear in your mind
and with them that once the child arrives, your allegiance is to
your child. As a parent, you need to protect your child even if
it means limiting his exposure to your family.
If your family was less than thrilled about your adoption, please
share your story in the comments to help others who are going
through this feel less alone. It is so disappointing,
discouraging, and sad to not have your parents, brothers or
sisters support something that means so much to you.
Posted by Dawn - June 30th, 2009
If you or someone you love want to welcome a child into their
lives and families, as my husband and I did, we can help. If you
are coming up against resistance from friends and family, contact
us. We help educate parents as well as their family and friends.