Adoption is becoming a common choice for many people who want to enlarge their family, as well as those who feel unable to parent. Placing a child in a stable, loving home can relieve stress and bring joy to those involved, despite the difficulties that bring a biological mother to make that decision.

People who don’t have a heart for adoption or didn’t experience the frustration of struggling to become pregnant may not understand committing to raise a child that is not a blood relative.

Despite efforts to be supportive, many comments about adoption can be hurtful. Learning about positive adoption language may ease tension and lend comfortability to sharing about your experience.

Three examples of why word choice might matter

Respect is key in every relationship, though that likely looks and sounds different to each birth mom, adoptive parent or adopted child. As such, rather than harboring resentment toward well-intentioned people in your life, open a dialogue about how words can hold an emotional attachment.

For example:

  • Placing a child for adoption is usually a heartbreaking decision-making process for a birth mother. No matter the personal circumstances involved, choosing what’s believed to be in the best interests of a child, including allowing them to be raised within another household, is far from “giving up” on them.
  • Finalizing an adoption alters family dynamics. However, differentiating between biological and adopted children can create lifelong challenges with acceptance and a sense of belonging. In some situations, an adoptee might distinguish between their adoptive and biological parents. Though, placement ought not define anyone or their “real” relatives.
  • Praising an adoptive parent for “taking in a child” could certainly hurt the feelings of those involved. This type of phrasing implies a sense of a child’s indebtedness to their mom or dad. Meanwhile, it could be grating to someone whose wish has finally been fulfilled after a history of infertility or loss.

With the transition from closed to international, open and stepparent adoption comes a continued transformation of language. Individuals touched by adoption may prefer certain word choices when referring to their story; though, some may have no interest in discussing it at all.

Adoption is an area of family law in which each case contains unique and extremely personal complexity. Although painful circumstances may initiate an adoption process, the special bonds formed often provide comfort – based on love.