Believe it or not, there is actually a great deal of controversy over adoption language, meaning the words and phrases we use to describe adoption and all those involved. Let’s face it, what isn’t there controversy about these days?! I could be posting about my favorite lolly-pop flavor and a dozen people would find someway to be offended, another 25 would comment on how it’s crazy my favorite flavor isn’t the same as their favorite flavor and a handful of people who are always much smarter than everyone else would remind me that I missed spelled lollipop and that the preferred term is sucker.
And you know what…that’s okay! Thank goodness we can all hold and express different opinions. Thank goodness we can all like a different lollipop flavor; mine is rootbeer by the way.
Words are powerful; the way we express our opinions truly matters. As Hawk Nelson says in his song, “Words can build you up, words can break you down, start a fire in your heart or put it out. Let my words be life.”
I mention this simply because people and families touched by adoption may use slightly different language to describe adoption and that is okay as long as the language used is respectful to all parties involved.
So, taking that into consideration, here’s how we talk about adoption.
Adoption Language Tips:
- CONSIDER: Birthmom, Birthdad; INSTEAD OF: Real mom, Real dad
We use the terms birthparent, birthmom, and birthdad when we talk about the people that gave our children life. The term “birthmom” for example, is not meant to diminish the significance of our birthmom by saying, “she gave birth to you, that’s it.” Rather, “birthmom” to us describes the amazing woman that choose life for her children; the woman who loved her children enough to let them go for a chance at a life she felt she couldn’t give them.
- CONSIDER: Chose adoption; INSTEAD OF: Gave her child up for adoption
We use the term “chose adoption” when we talk about the decision our birthmother made for her children. To say, “she gave her children up for adoption,” implies it was some quick, easy decision in which she just happily handed her little one over. We are taught that the correct “positive adoption” terminology to use is, she “made an adoption plan.” That seems a bit too business-y to me. We say “she chose adoption,” because it communicates that our birthmom made the decision that adoption was the best option for her children.
- CONSIDER: Blessed by Adoption; INSTEAD OF: Adoptive Parent
There are still times I find myself describing myself as an adoptive parent. As adoptive parents (see what I did there), we struggle to find ways to describe ourselves. We know we are “normal” parents to our little ones, but we are also part of a unique larger group of families who have adopted. Instead of saying, “I love meeting other adoptive parents” try “I love meeting other families touched/blessed by adoption.”
- CONSIDER: Open to any race; INSTEAD OF: Race doesn’t matter
On the road to finding our adoption agency, one of the first questions agencies asked us about was race. It’s easy to say, “Oh, race doesn’t matter to us.” People say that with open hearts and good intentions, but if you think about it…race does matter or at least it should. It matters, because it is part of the child’s identity and as a parent it will be your job to help educate and celebrate that part of their identity with them.
- CONSIDER: My child; INSTEAD OF: My adopted child
When you adopt, there is kind of this strange line between being proud that your family has been touched by adoption and just being the normal family that you are. You don’t have to introduce your children as “your adopted children.” Your children are now just YOUR awesome children and your family is a crazy “normal” family. Don’t get me wrong, talk about adoption with your kids, answer questions, and if it feels right for your family celebrate “adoption holidays” like Gotcha Day. But, also be sensitive, especially as your children age that they may not want a reason to stick out or be different.
Whatever you call yourself, your babes, or the people that blessed you with those little ones, however you talk about adoption; may your words bring life and love.