How to Talk to Your Family About Adoption

How to Talk to Your Family About Adoption

We’re excited to share this special chapter from Rachel Garlinghouse’s new book, The Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption: the Wit and Wisdom You Need for the Journey. As an adoptive mom, Rachel has been a part of the adoption community for ten years, and through her writing she educates, inspires, and empowers.

How to Talk to Your Family About Adoption

Whether you have already revealed your decision to family members or you are simply considering doing so (and how), here are some helpful tips:

1: Provide resources. To deliver big news without anything to help family members process your choice can naturally be overwhelming for family. After all, it’s likely they, like most of the general public, know very little information about adoption besides the inaccuracies they’ve likely seen in the media and in entertainment (such as in films and made-for-TV movies). I highly recommend In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You To Know About Adoption (Elisabeth O’Toole, 2010) and Adoption Is a Family Affair: What Relatives and Friends Must Know (Patricia Irwin Johnston, 2012).

2: Be open to further discussion. Encourage your family members to share their concerns and questions with you. Be committed to listening and responding in love and education. Remember, these individuals have been your primary support system since you were young, so you can rely on one another while you navigate the adoption process.

3: Include family members. Whether you are putting together a nursery for the child you will adopt, shopping for baby clothing, or researching vaccines and parenting styles, invite family members to participate. This helps everyone build excitement and anticipation for the new arrival!

4: Forgive, forgive, forgive. Your family members will not always use the right adoption terminology. They won’t always understand your choices. They may say the wrong things at the wrong times. But keep in mind, they are learning and growing alongside you: at their own pace. Gently correct, continue to provide resources, and forgive freely.

5: Don’t forget about the after. Even after you adopt, your family and friends may have questions. Don’t hesitate to occasionally send an awesome article their way, especially if a recent conversation has motivated you to dig deeper, learn more, and share that education with those who love your family.

6: Have boundaries. If a family member or friend is unwilling to budge in terms of your child and his or her well-being, you have to make some tough calls. This might be a racist uncle, an unsupportive sister, etc. These are not EASY calls to make, but they are necessary. Your allegiance is to your child and your partner; everyone else is secondary.

Keep in mind, your family members need time, love, patience, and education in order to arrive where you are: accepting, excited, and prepared. It’s not always easy to wait for loved ones to catch up to you, but when they do, it will be well worth it!

For more wit and wisdom from Rachel, find her new book here

Written By
Rachel Garlinghouse

Rachel lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and four children.  Her favorite things are kitchen dance parties, coffee with a dollop of ice cream, and shopping at Home Goods.  Rachel is passionate about the intersection of adoption and race, sharing her experiences in her books and articles, on her blog White Sugar Brown Sugar, and via media appearances, including CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and NPR.   Rachel and her husband have been in the adoption community for a decade, encouraging others and simmering in hope, empathy, and education.  Contact Rachel and keep up with her family’s adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.