Blog// LGBT Adoptive Parents

Teaching Your Adoptee How to Navigate Questions and Comments About Adoption

If you are an adoptive parent, at some point you have probably experienced awkward conversations and had to field intrusive questions whether from strangers or even friends and family about adoption. If you are a prospective parent, this is something you will most likely encounter on your journey of adoption parenting. These comments and questions are usually unwelcome and can sometimes be hurtful, which is why it is important as a parent to teach your adoptee how to navigate these situations with ease and not obligation. 

The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) developed a tool called ‘W.I.S.E Up!’ to help empower children to own their stories and navigate comments and questions about adoption in a way that feels safe and gives them agency and ownership. This is a great tool that adoptive parents can teach their children early on to help them learn how to navigate questions and comments about adoption when they arise. 

The following are the four options adoptees have when faced with intrusive comments or questions about their adoption utilizing the ‘W.I.S.E. Up!’ method:

  1. W (walk away): Teaching your adoptee that they do not owe anyone their story and that they can opt out of conversations is crucial. Walking away from a conversation that feels intrusive, uncomfortable or even unsafe can be hard, but it is a great way to uphold a boundary. Teaching your adoptee that they have the choice to not engage is necessary as physically walking away may feel disrespectful or rude, especially when interacting with adults. Encourage your adoptee that walking away from conversations is an appropriate response when they feel triggered or uneasy and their safety and comfortability is what is most important. 
  2.  I (ignore or change the subject): Another tactic that may feel easier to some adoptees than walking away is ignoring the question or comment or changing the subject entirely. As a parent, it may be helpful for your child if you practice this so it can feel more natural to them or even help them come up with prompts ahead of time so they can change the subject with ease. 
  3. S (share what you are comfortable sharing): Have a conversation with your adoptee and ask them what parts of their adoption story they feel safe sharing. If there are not any, make sure to affirm and acknowledge that this is okay. Sometimes sharing some information can feel easier than walking away, ignoring or changing the subject but remind your child there should never be an obligation to share or continue sharing. What adoptees feel safe sharing may change as they get older so revisiting this option may be appropriate. 
  4. E (educate about adoption in general): This can be a hard response for adoptees, especially when they feel the pressure to constantly be educating others about adoption. Adoption education should never be just the responsibility of the adoptee. Adoptive parents and families should share in educating others to help alleviate what can often feel like a burden to adoptees. If your child has the desire, you can empower them to educate others on adoption but you never want them to feel like they have to or it's their job. There may be days they feel like educating others and there may be days they feel like walking away. As an adoptive parent, make sure to continuously affirm all four options. 

As an adoptive parent, it will be your responsibility to equip and support your adoptee in navigating these conversations and encounters, as well as partner with them in setting and upholding their boundaries. This means there is shared responsibility among the family in utilizing the ‘W.I.SE. Up!’ tool. Sit down with your adoptee and go through each option of the ‘W.I.S.E. Up!’ tool and practice responses and scenarios together. When your adoptee knows how to put this tool in action ahead of time, they will be more prepared and confident in navigating questions and comments when they occur. 


By: Ramya Gruneisen

References: Singer, Ellen. "The 'W.I.S.E. Up!' tool: empowering adopted children to cope with questions and comments about adoption." Pediatric Nursing, vol. 36, no. 4, July-Aug. 2010, pp. 209+. Gale Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.


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