Every year, thousands of children in the United States are given a unique opportunity via the gift of adoption. As they grow up, they will likely have questions about their biological parents, and might not understand the depth of love present in their lives: the biological parents loved the child so much, they were willing to give him a chance at a better life, even though it wasn’t with them; the adoptive parents loved the child so much, they chose him and took him home.
In this situation, as in many others in life, it’s important to remember the power of words. The Mayo Clinic notes that positive thinking and self-talk can lower stress and depression, increase your life span, and even offer greater resistance to the common cold! Language, both negative and positive, becomes part of our mindset and the way we look at any situation. Choosing positive words and a positive outlook creates a more positive experience for everyone involved.
Though adoption has its challenges for both the biological and the adoptive parents, overall it is a positive, loving experience. Using positive language about the adoption benefits both the child and the birth parents, as well as the adoptive parents and their friends and family.
Here’s how to do that.
Say: Place a Child for Adoption
Instead of: Giving a Child Up for Adoption
As a birth parent, you’re not “giving up” or “giving away” your child. Acting with the child’s best interest in mind, you’re choosing adoption and placing him or her with a family who has both the resources and the strong desire to raise a baby. There is a big difference between giving a child up for adoption and placing a child for adoption.
Say: Birth Mother
Instead of: Real Mother
Your place as biological mother can not be changed or taken away. You and the adoptive mother are both quite real; specify with the term “birth mother” or “biological mother” instead of “real mother.”
Say: Your Son or Daughter
Instead of: Your Adopted Son or Daughter
When the adoptive parents adopt the child, they become the parents. The child is their son or daughter; consistently indicating that the child was adopted can make him or her feel different or perhaps not loved the same way by her parents as a biological child would be. In most cases nowadays, the child knows he or she was adopted and understands more of the reasoning behind it as he or she grows up.
Say: A Child Placed for Adoption or A Child Who is Waiting
Instead of: An Unwanted Child
There is no such thing as an unwanted child. Even if the birth parents do not feel that they can provide for the child, it doesn’t mean they don’t want the baby. They want him or her to have the best opportunities in life, so they placed the child for adoption so another family who wants and is ready for a child can offer a loving home and bright future.
Say: Was Adopted
Instead of: Is Adopted
Adoption is an event, not a status or condition.
An adopted child will probably grow to have questions about the adoption: Who is my birth mother? What is she like? Did she love me? Why was I adopted? How did my parents choose me? By using positive language from the very beginning, it casts a positive light around the process. The child will still have questions, but she’ll have no doubt that the adoption was a good thing, that both the birth and the adoptive parents love her, and that the adoption was a choice made with her future in mind.
If you’ve heard certain adoption-related language in the past that doesn’t seem positive to you, or if you’re not sure how to refer to some part of the process, feel free to contact us with your questions. We are very strong advocates of carefully thought out and positive language from everyone involved. It really can make all the difference.
If you’re considering placing a child for adoption or adopting a child, we would love to talk with you about the journey and how we can help.