Deciding to adopt a child is a big step in growing your family. Thankfully, there are tons of resources out there to help you navigate the world of adoption, as well as a growing number of resources from the perspective of adoptees and birth parents. That being said, from my experience, there are not a whole lot of resources out there on how to share your decision to adopt with others.
Because adopting is something many people have little to no experience with, sharing this decision with others can be really challenging. From relatives who may have a negative view of adoption to answering approximately a million questions from well-meaning friends, it is a big deal to share this with others.
Do your homework.
One of the most important suggestions I have for you is to do your homework well before you decide to share this with others. Like I said, many people have little to no experience with adoption, which means you are going to inevitably get a lot of questions and have to set some misconceptions straight.
Adoption has changed enormously in the last several decades. It used to be highly secretive and mostly consisted of closed adoptions, meaning there is no contact with the birth parents. Today, we know that adoptees are most successful when they have access to birth parent(s) in an open or semi-open adoption, so long as the birth parents are safe to be around. Many folks, especially those who were around for the era of mostly closed adoptions, do not recognize this shift and may need to learn about it.
It is also critical to understand the different types of adoptions you could possibly have. This will also be something people ask usually pretty early on in your conversation, typically in the form of, “What country are you adopting from?” or “How old will the child be?”
Perhaps most importantly, as a prospective adoptive parent, it is absolutely critical to do your research on the adoptee and birth parent perspectives. Adoption is a triad, and while it is exciting that you are growing your family, it is critical to not neglect these parties in this. Educate yourself on these perspectives by attending round tables, reading books, or listening to podcasts. One of my favorites is Adoption Now, which often shares the perspective of adoptees and birth parents.
Decide who actually needs to know.
Unlike pregnancy, adoption does not have a physically obvious component. AKA: no one has to know you are planning to adopt . . . unless you want to share. Friends, use this to your advantage! You do not–I repeat, you do not–have to tell everyone you know. Think critically about who absolutely needs to know about your choice to adopt. From a chronic over-sharer herself (me), here are some questions to ask yourself to decide who needs to know:
- Is this person someone that will have a regular role in my future child’s life?
- Is this someone I can trust to not share this around with people I don’t want to know yet that I am adopting?
- Is this person someone I have run large life decisions by in the past? How have those conversations gone?
The other thing to consider is timing. You may want to have the conversation in the early phases of adoption (such as going through the orientation), or you may want to wait until your home study is approved–or even after placement.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), becoming an adoptive parent likely means you’ll be educating others on adoption. For me, I look at this as a privilege. Yup, it is sometimes tiring to have the same or similar conversation over and over again–but I really am excited by sharing about adoption with others.
When this gets tiring or if there are concerns, arm yourself with resources to share with others so you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. This is part of why educating yourself first is so important! Educate yourself so you can educate others–and don’t be afraid to recommend resources to others. Some of the resources I have and will share with others include:
- Blog posts
- Podcast episode
Sometimes, this news can take time for people. For some of the conversations I’ve had with family and friends, it has taken several five-minute conversations with little pieces of our adoption story for them to grasp it. For others, it has taken some time for them to understand the “new landscape” of adoption and to understand our reasoning.
Give grace and patience to those who are new to the world of adopting, understanding that most people’s reactions are out of love.
Take Care of Yourself
Though most people are reacting out of love, boundaries are super important. Patience is possible with many situations, but not all. Please, friends, take care of yourself in having these discussions. Seek therapy (I go every three weeks–it’s amazing!), practice self-care, and discern who the right people are to share updates with.
Just because you shared one piece of news, does not mean you need to keep sharing. Take care of yourself so you can be the best mom possible to your future kiddo! We believe in you and are walking it right there with you.