Monday, November 17, 2014

Six Things Not to Say to an Adoptive Parent

I recently posted a blog that I have been working on for some time. It took me a while to write it because I wanted to be sure it accurately conveyed my heart but was honest about something that it seems is lacking in the adoption community. I wrote it knowing that I was opening myself up for criticism, but I felt like God was prompting me to post it so I held my breath and hit “Post”.

And I’m so glad I did.

Because turns out there are a lot of families out there walking this path and when I posted it, it was like I came upon an oasis in this desert land. A place where other families were drinking deep from the Living Water who is our strength on this journey and for those without strength to kneel down, they brought a cup to them and said, “Here. This will give you hope”. Within a week I got dozens of e-mails of people sharing their stories of struggle and hope and faith and joy and tears and questions about their precious and dearly loved adopted children who are struggling for various reasons. Some on the brink of giving up. Others who have been fighting this battle much longer than me. Others with victories to share.

So many moms and dads commented and wrote me saying, “We are together in this! God is faithful! Stay strong!” Wow, what a blessing for the Body of Christ to step up and without judgement say words of hope and healing. I was left crying and praising and praying many times throughout the week. So humbling.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.” Proverb 12.25

Aaaannnndddd I also got several not-so-nice comments, too. Which is fine! God used those to help me see the full spectrum of this thing. So many people DON’T understand the trails that the special needs of a child can bring a family. Honestly, if I hadn’t experienced this trial myself, I would probably be pretty critical and skeptical, too.

And it led me to this post. Here are six things that I can say, at least for myself as an adoptive parent, that we don’t need to hear:

What Not to Say: “You need parenting classes.”

This one was sort of random to me, but I thought I would mention it because, let’s be honest, that’s rarely a nice to say to someone. I know there are “parenting classes” out there and fantastic ministries that focus on the challenges and joys of parenting. And don’t we all need tips and advice on how to navigate these parenting waters?? The truth is it can be a doozy no matter your child’s bloodline! I know I personally read blogs often about parenting and they are many times convicting and enlightening, challenging and encouraging as my husband and I strive to raise our kids to know and love the Lord. Buuuuuut when someone is sharing a parenting trial and reaching out for community, they likely know already that they don’t have all the answers. If they did, they wouldn’t be posting, right?

A Better Thing To Say: “Here are some things that have worked for our family.”

If you genuinely feel that someone needs some help in their parenting techniques or approaches, it would be more productive to offer up what has worked for your family. Maybe it would work for theirs as well. Or, maybe just recognize that they have weaknesses and need some encouraging words.

“There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12.18

What Not to Say: "You deserve it."

This was probably the harshest of the negative comments.

There were a few people with this remark actually (which really surprised me) but one in particular stood out. Her words were actually, “Because you purchased a child from overseas. You treated yourself to a thrill. You knew it was wrong, didn't give a damn and did it anyways. 
It's kind of awesome to see selfish baby buyers getting exactly what they deserve.”

I assume the anonymous commenter has had a poor experience with the international adoption system as they made reference to people “buying” their children from overseas. She went on to say she had three that she adopted from the US (for which I assume she didn’t have to pay any money for the process). Perhaps they have had or have heard of first hand experiences with some of the terribly corrupt practices in the adoption system. I do not have personal experience, but I have heard stories of people making profits off of the “business” of adoption and even people taking healthy newborns from loving families to “sell” to adoption organizations. This is so tragic that I don’t have words and I pray and have no doubt that there are good people on the inside of the system who are fighting hard for reform. It is a messed up world we live in, folks.

However, to tell an adoptive parent that they “deserve” the trials that the special needs of a child brings because they paid various costs in order to bring that child into their family is no more fair than to tell a family who has a biological child with special needs that they “deserve” it. Adoptive parents do not feel “entitled” to a child. Every loving parent desires for their child to grow up healthy, strong, and well adjusted regardless of their bloodline and when that doesn’t happen for one reason or another it is HARD. It is hard to watch your child suffer and to not understand how to communicate in the right way with that child. Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, etc. are very real and can wreak havoc on the lives of those who have it and their families. Support is needed.

A Better Thing to Say: “I don’t understand your pain, but I will commit to pray for you and your family.”

I would never presume to know the depths of pain that families who have children with terminal illnesses face. I have never personally experienced that. But I can have compassion and pray for God’s hope and healing, peace and strength. In the same way, if you have never experienced life with a child who has special emotional or psychological needs, you won’t be able to understand all the dynamics. So, hold your judgement and pray. God does know and understand and He can bring hope and healing. 

“Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3.8

What Not to Say: “You shouldn’t point out all the negative things about adoption. There are so many kids out there that need families and you are going to scare people out of adopting!”

That would be like saying, “Don’t tell people that marriage can be challenging! You will scare people out of getting married!” Let’s just shoot straight here. You could talk to a couple that is in love all day long about the difficulties that marriage can bring and they are going to smile and nod right through your conversation and on their way to pick out wedding cakes.

If someone feels called to adopt, they are no less going to allow the knowledge of potential challenges deter them than they are the mountains of paperwork and years of waiting. What actually more likely to happen is that they will be better prepared for the trials that may (or may not!) come there way. I wish someone would have told me!! Granted, I’m glad I didn’t know the DETAILS, but no one knows those but God anyway. It would have just been nice to know that it’s not all unicorns and rainbows like the pictures and stories make you think.

We have books about marriage and conferences about marriage and blogs about marriage because it can be complicated. It shouldn’t be far fetched to have the same type of encouragement and support for struggling adoptive parents.

A Better Thing to Say: “Thanks for balancing out the realities of adoption. It can certainly be overwhelming and challenging. Praise God that He is bigger than all of our trials, though!”

Amen and amen!! He IS so much bigger! That is the hope we have and some days that’s the only thing that keeps us going. It’s good to be reminded of it often.

“Bright eyes cheer the heart; good news strengthens the bones.” Proverbs 15.30

What Not to Say: “You just need to learn what unconditional love is.”

Whew, YES! Don’t we all?? I will be the first to admit that 1 Corinthians 13 is a challenge for me. “Love is patient.” Failed at that one today when my son spilled another glass of water. “Love is kind.” Yep, another mess up when the day was ending and my kids were stretching my last ounce of patience. “Love does not act improperly.” Yikes. We won’t even go there.

Unconditional love is a tough one, y’all. We are human after all. But that is exactly what we are striving for, right? To love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to love our Neighbor (husband, children, friends, family) as ourselves. Love, love, love. It’s all about love!

So simple yet so… hard. We are selfish by nature. But as Christ followers, it is in us to desire to love. And therefore we long to love our special needs adopted children unconditionally. The struggle comes when—surprise!—that love is rejected over and over. But as I walk this journey, I am learning more and more about how truly amazing and miraculous it is that the God of the UNIVERSE would love me—an awful, terrible sinner—so much that He gave His Son to die in my place and that even now—now that I know who He is and His great love—He loves me when I reject Him and ignore Him. WOW! He is THE perfect example of how we are to love the unloveable. So, YES! We do need to learn what unconditional love is. We ALL do!

A Better Thing to Say: “We are all unloveable at times. Keep fighting the good fight and remember God’s unconditional love for us. I pray your child one day sees Christ’s love through you.”

Whew. When I hear those words it is both a great reminder and like a healing balm to my soul! Yes, I am so unloveable, but God loves me! Because of that I can show that same love to my child and trust that God will open her eyes to the beauty that it is. Amazing.

"We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4.19

What Not to Say: “You should have adopted for the right reasons.”

Honestly, I don’t really know what the “wrong” reasons to adopt are, but I’m assuming it would be to impress people? To take cute family photos? To have a little variety in your family’s skin color? I don’t know. If any of those were the reason you adopted then, yes, you definitely should have adopted for the right reasons! But I don’t know a single adoptive family that didn’t adopt out of genuine love for the Lord and for their child. (Not saying they aren’t out there, just that I don’t personally know them.)

To tell this to a parent who is struggling with the reality of their adopted child’s special needs would be like telling a parent struggling with the reality of their biological child’s special needs that they should have gotten pregnant for the right reasons.


I will say again, no parent wants to see their child suffer. No parent wants to struggle every day to connect and watch their child reject love.

We often hear on the one hand that adoptive parents are expected to love their adopted children in the same way they love their biological children (and they should!) but when it comes to admitting to difficulties adopted children sometimes face, it’s taboo, though often not so with biological children. It’s a little unbalanced, I’d say.

A Better Thing to Say: Probably nothing at all.

Instead, maybe research some of the very real emotional and psychological issues that adopted children (and in turn adoptive families) face.

Things like Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post TraumaticStress Disorder which are both very common in adopted children. By doing a little research, you may be able to better understand and gain compassion for these children and families.

“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1.27

What Not to Say: “You are just self-righteous/entitled/egocentric.”

I have a friend who has a biological child who has classic RAD symptoms. Let’s pretend for a moment that she wrote this same exact blog about her daughter that she carried in her womb for 9 months, gave birth to, and raised from day one yet has shared with me many of the emotional trials this child has brought.

Would you say that she has a feeling of entitlement because she longs to relate to and understand her daughter and love her effectively and grieves that she can’t? Would you say she was self-righteous because she recognizes the internal battle that her daughter faces with building walls to protect herself emotionally, knowing all the while as her mom that she doesn’t need to? Would you consider it egocentric that she wishes differently for her family?

My guess is probably not.  So I offer up the idea that neither is it for an adoptive parent.

A Better Thing to Say: Gonna go with “Nothing at all” on this one, too.

If you genuinely feel that way in your heart, you miiiiiight want to examine and see if perhaps you aren’t the one with a self-righteousness issue. We all have battles. We all have sin that we fight daily.

Don’t judge someone else because their struggle looks different from your own.

“The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” –Jesus

The Bottom Line:

“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies; it pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell…. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way.” James 3.6, 7b-10

Easy killer. Reel it in. If we truly call ourselves Christ followers, then we are to “carry one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6.2) and to “[speak] to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music to the Lord in your heart”. It’s hard to do those things when we are tearing one another down and lacking compassion.

It’s easy to post an anonymous, hateful post (which all but one of these were anonymous) and then carry on with your day feeling justified in your remarks. But it’s also easy to forget that there are real life people on the other side of the screen. I highly doubt you would speak face to face that way with someone (at least I hope not, wow!)

To everyone who shared your stories and wrote words full of life and encouragement, thank you!! We are in this together and it is so much sweeter when the Body of Christ rallies around to carry the load.

(PS Congratulations if you made it to the end of this very long post! Feel free to comment. If you disagree with any part of what I said, I’d love to hear from you as long as it is written respectfully with the intent to understand one another. All hateful comments will be deleted because, well... ain’t nobody got time for dat.)


  1. Okay, I think this one comes from an adoption blog troll, because I've had almost the very same comment on my blog recently: “Because you purchased a child from overseas. You treated yourself to a thrill. You knew it was wrong, didn't give a damn and did it anyways. 
It's kind of awesome to see selfish baby buyers getting exactly what they deserve.” Doesn't make it hurt any less, but it does make me feel a little bit less *singled out* as the target of that hatred.

    1. Shecki,

      Wow! Someone makes it their job to go around saying hateful things on blog posts? I think that must be the definition of a miserable existence. Praying that person can truly find Christ and the hope and peace He can bring.

      No, you weren't singled out!

  2. Thank you for your honesty and thank you for sharing your heart and home with a hurting child. It is not easy but every child is worth it. My bio daughter has attachment issues. I did not know this until I adopted and started learning what that looks like. I had a traumatic pregnancy and family difficulties when she was still an infant. I did not know bio kids could have this problem. I love her and always will, but there is a disconnect. I am still learning ways to reach her and make her feel like the loved treasure that she is. I wish I had known this information when she was young.

    1. Yes, Brenda, we have friends with biological children with similar struggles.
      I pray that you guys will find a way to overcome these struggles. God is able.

  3. Love ya'll! We pray for you often and miss you guys so much! Ethan & Hailey.

    1. Thanks, Hailey!! Love y'all too. I'm so sorry that neither of us got to hang out with y'all while we were Stateside!

  4. We walked the exact same road with our son starting 14 years ago. It was awful and I wished many times we would have not gone through with it. HOWEVER, the grace of God prevails!!!! Today he is the most wonderful attached teenager you would ever meet, loves the Lord and his siblings, and is the biggest delight to this Momma's heart. God restored the years the locusts had eaten. Hang in there my friend! God will finish what he started.

    1. Praise the Lord! I LOVE hearing stories like this. God is able.

  5. Thank you for sharing honestly and truthfully! After 13 years of loving a child who was terribly wounded before he landed in my arms, I can truly say that I have experienced time and again the transformation of ashes into beauty.

  6. I recently found your blog and have been so blessed by it. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for reading! I'm glad it could encourage you. Blessings!

  7. These are such wise words--and a gracious rebuttal. I am so sorry you had some negative and cutting comments but I love your response to them.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your heart, it's so nice to read this and know that I am not the only one going through these trails.

    1. No, you are not alone! Until I posted my blog, I thought we were, too. But there is a whole group of us out there and it feels like the weight is a little lighter just knowing that.

  9. Thank you so much for this blog posting and your prior blog. A friend forwarded your blog to me, and I am so blessed to have read it. You have a way with words, to describe your feelings as well as responses to these rude comments- without being wordy. You are definitely blessed with a gift for writing. Please continue to share. Yes, there are trolls. And interestingly enough a lot of the rude comments you received and rebutted are sometimes thoughts that can pop up into my own mind- thoughts of doubt over our own adoption challenges that we are facing. Anyhow when you gave your responses to those unkind comments it really helped me with my own self-doubts. I hope that makes sense. Anyhow, my biggest biggest complaint in this whole adoption journey is how terribly difficult it is for me to love this little feisty challenge we have brought into our family. Love. It's so tough. So easy for my bio child. So tough for this one. It shows me my ugliness every day. The ugliness in my heart that I wish I didn't have. I thought I was a better person before I adopted, and now I know that I am not a good person. People like to say what a good person I am because I adopted a child who has a disability....and I tell them that I am not a good person. God is good. He cares for this little one. He picked her. He wanted her adopted. I am not the good one. I mean it from the bottom of my heart-but people still don't get it. Anyhow....I'm going to sign this anonymous because I don't want any trolls on my blog! LOL

    1. YES! God is the only good in us! We get this ALL the time, too. That's the primary reason I try to be so honest on my blog. We are missionaries, too, so it gives people this idea that we are "super-human". "Wow! They are missionaries AND they adopted! These people are AMAZING!"... NO! We are people. We struggle and fail and the only amazing thing is that God's grace is sufficient to lift us back up to try again.

      To Him be the glory.

      Prayers for your family! I pray He will give you strength to face each new struggle.

  10. I have a family member that adopted internationally and it has been a struggle and a challenge for them. I did make a remark after listening to the challenges and it was "you didn't really think it was going to be easy did you?" I think they took it in a hurtful way, even though it was not meant that way. It was just an observation. I was going to adopt internationally, at one point in my life. I chose not to, as a single mom of a biological child, I didn't believe I had the resources within myself at that time to deal with the struggles and challenges I knew were to come. I had researched it, met with other families who had adopted and yes, the love was there, but I could see that it would be better with two parents. So my comment was not meant in a hurtful way, but rather, as I said as an observation. I did my research, and so should they have done their research. Instead it seemed as if it was a shock to them, the struggle to connect, attach and overcome barriers. To all those in the process of adoption, do your research, make sure you are prepared in your heart, not just for the rewards that are certain to be there, but the struggles and stress that come too.

    1. Thank you for your honesty! I'm glad you did your research and were honest with yourself. I hope that you will continue to share your story with others to encourage them to see both sides. Not to prevent more from adopting, but to help them understand the realities and be better prepared should they feel led to adopt.

  11. About the first one: is it okay to talk about (and recommend) a class that I really like? We haven't adopted, but we are around a lot of adoptive parents, because we're in orphan care ministry, so I've gotten to sit in on some great classes and conferences. When I recommend them, does it sound like I'm saying, "You need parenting classes"? I hope not!

    I had more to say, but I'm being climbed on.... :-)

  12. Hi, Phyllis! I would love for you to share it if you think it can help encourage someone.

    Thanks for your care for adoptive families! I don't think they'll think you are recommending parenting classes, lol. They'll probably feel more like, "Hey, this person actually care about the struggles we might be facing!" Big difference!


  13. What a blessing you choose to be even in the midst of severe trial! The thing I love about following Jesus is he doesn't expect perfection from us but rather to pick ourselves up and try again. See there is beauty in the struggle, we just can't see it until after the strength of God has helped us overcome it. Blessings to you and your beautiful family!;-)

  14. Thank you. I can't tell you just how encouraging this was. We adopted a child at the age of 8. In no way were we prepared for what was to come. A child with attachment issues are Camillians. Our son is well mannered, charming and very polite outside the walls of our home. Six years later the lying and stealing are the least of his issues. Violence and rage have brought isolation and fear into our home. Social Services were so desperate to place him the were deceptive about his history. Leaving us without the tools early on. Our loving home was not, is not enough. Daily I ask the Lord for strength to get through the day and to show me how to love a child who has torn at the fabric of our home and family. Love is not enough, many adoption stories do not have silver linings. Transparency, education, therapy from the beginning are so very important. My heart aches when I see adoption success stories wishing that was our story. But maybe there is a lesson here. I don't know if our son will ever heal from his childhood trauma. I pray someday he will allow himself to be loved. That The Lord heals his heart. But people need to know that this road is not always paved.

  15. Just wanted to share a resource with you -- I am an adoptee and just this year discovered and read the book 'The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child' by Nancy Verrier. I found it absolutely fascinating, and resonated with a lot of it.
    May God bless you and your family and give you strength as you follow and obey Him.

    1. Thank you, Betsy. I have had several people recommend that to me and plan to read it in the near future. Thank you for your kind words!

  16. I stumbled across The Ugly Side of Adoption blog you wrote and then found the link to this one on your blog site. Thank you so much! The same can be said of foster parenting. We recently had a teen age girl for 2 1/2 years and it was very rough. There were many ugly sides to the situation, that I won't take the time to write here. I needed to hear these things, and I plan to post the links to these two blogs on my own blog soon ( I enjoy writing about real life issues that students and parents deal with, as well as my thoughts on issues that I have had experience with. Thank you!!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Sharren! I'll check out your blog as well. Thanks for being a voice of truth out there and fighting the good fight.

  17. i am thankful you've stepped out in faith to adopt! you are precious! your faith abounds. i pray He will sustain you through all this hardship...that one day she, too, will rise up and call you (both) blessed! i know that it's hard. i've seen it in the families of a few friends. i can't imagine.
    keep up the loving and praying. in Christ alone.

  18. Thank you for this post and the original one.


It's always good to hear from you! Please feel free to leave an encouraging word or constructive criticism. Both are welcome.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...