Many well-meaning people sometimes say things that are not the best possible things to say at a given time. Here are a few “not-so- great” things that are often said to adoptive parents, potential adoptive parents, or couples struggling with infertility.
If a couple announces that they're adopting, people actually ask, “Why would you adopt? You can't have kids regular?” Instead, consider this as an option: “That's awesome! Congratulations! How can I pray for you specifically?” This leaves it open for the couple to share any struggles they are having with infertility—or just the adoption process in general.
And don't assume that because a couple adopts, this means that the wife will all of the sudden become pregnant. It DOES NOT happen for everyone. So, for you to say, “Oh, I'm sure you'll get pregnant as soon as you adopt. It happened for Bob and Susie, and Bill and Nancy, and…” This just causes all kinds of problems. For one thing, you may be building false hope, because you are not, in fact, the Giver of Life. Also, in some people's eyes, it devalues adoption.
Also, if you hear that someone is struggling with infertility, don't offer them your kids in jest. It's not funny! I've heard people say, “Ugh! You think you want kids? You can keep little Johnny for a weekend, and I bet you'll change your mind.” People want the child or children God has for them—not yours—or your comments!
When someone is adopting older children (as in our case), don't patronize them with phrases about not having to deal with crying at night or diapers, etc. Not all people choose to adopt older children to avoid stinky diapers and sleepless nights. We have plenty of trials of our own and grieve the time lost with our adopted children.
Another question doesn't bring the pain like some of the others might, but it can sometimes be tiring to answer: “Any news yet?” On the surface the question is obviously caring and in no way hurtful, but it is a constant reminder that there is no news. We still want people to care, but understand that on any given day we might be asked that same question five or six times. An alternative might be: “We are still praying for you and your kiddos!”—or maybe: “Let me know if there are specific ways we can pray.” It just alleviates the pressure of having to share all of the mundane details involved in waiting.
And here's a post-adoption no-no: If it is obvious that a couple has either adopted, kidnapped, or are babysitting the children they are with in the grocery store, then it is obvious. There is no need to ask, “Are they really yours?” This could be confusing, especially for older children. Just smile and tell them how cute they are, or call the police—or both!
Some adoptive parents are bothered by being asked if the children they have are all siblings. If they are all adopted by the same parents, then they are all siblings! One biological child, one adopted from Africa, two adopted domestically—they are all siblings! Please don't make parents answer the details of that question in front of their kids.
These thoughts are offered as a guide to help you communicate clearly what's in your heart. If you mean well, and you want to offer your friends or loved ones an expression of tenderness and caring in whatever they are walking through, there is one phrase that ALWAYS fits: “I love you!”