3 Questions You Shouldn’t Ask an Ethnic Adopted Child
Adoption is an amazing thing. As an adoptive mom, I have experienced many of the ins and outs of adoption. I know many people have genuine interest in adoption and can express that in several different ways.
This post is inspired by my 11-year-old daughter and experiences she has had being an Ethiopian child in a white American family.
Just yesterday at church, my daughter was walking through the children’s area with a friend. A young boy stopped right in front of her and asked “Are you from Africa?”
This particular question didn’t offend her. She has never been asked that before, but is very proud of her African heritage and didn’t mind responding.
However, that is not always the case when people ask her questions.
The goal of this post is to inform and educate people that may not have experience interacting with adoptive families and children. It is understandable that you may have questions.
But some questions really shouldn’t be asked, especially of the child.
I remember before I was married and then when we first started the adoption process, anytime I saw an adoptive family I was always interested in their story.
I know it is hard to discern how to ask questions and what questions you should and shouldn’t ask.
Even now as an adoptive mom I feel myself searching for the right words at times when I want to approach another adoptive mom to connect and share stories.
Like I mentioned above, my daughter is Ethiopian, and my husband and I are white Americans, so it is very obvious that we have adopted.
The more time we’ve had our daughter the more we have experienced questions asked of us and her that have made her uncomfortable.
We know when people approach us and ask questions their intent is not to make us or our daughter uncomfortable, but sometimes that’s what ends up happening.
I hope this post can provide some insight, as these are the top 3 questions my daughter says make her the most uncomfortable.
Here are 3 questions you should never ask an ethnic adopted child.
1. Can I touch your hair?
I have never been asked by anyone if they could touch my hair, probably because my hair is similar to theirs. Even still in the rare instances I’ve been in the minority, it is still a question I’ve never been asked.
Usually if someone likes another’s hair, they complement it, but don’t ask to touch it. Please do the same to an ethnic adopted child.
Also be informed about ethnic hair, especially if you are going to comment about it. When my daughter has extensions in her hair multiple times people have commented “Wow! Your hair grew so fast! It’s beautiful!”
Hair can’t grow 16 inches overnight… So just saying “your hair looks beautiful” would be a great compliment.
With all that to say, asking is still better than just walking up and touching her hair. Several times at the grocery store or the gym people have come up and touched her hair saying how beautiful it is.
It is much better to ask and give her the option to say yes or no, rather than invading her personal space without warning.
2. Your skin is so beautiful; can I touch it?
This question is usually asked to children with a different skin color. They already know their skin is a different color. But it’s still skin all the same.
Pointing it out makes them feel more insecure and uncomfortable. Just tell them their skin is beautiful and don’t ask to touch it.
3. What happened to your real mom? (family, real dad, etc…)
First of all, what you’re meaning to ask is “what happened to your biological mom?” I am her real mom, just as she is my own child (though not biological).
My child’s past is private and hers to share when and if she wants to. Adopted children all come from pasts that have some sort of loss and often trauma. They don’t need to relive that, and quite frankly it’s not anyone else’s business.
My daughter has been asked this question multiple times. When an adult asks this question, it makes her feel even more uncomfortable because she feels like it is impolite not to answer.
Questions like this can bring up a lot of emotion for a child making them uncomfortable, sad, and frustrated. So please just don’t ask.
It’s great that you want to engage these children, just take a moment to think before you ask a question and lean more towards a compliment rather than a question.
These are 3 of the most frustrating questions for an ethnic adopted child to be asked from my daughters’ perspective. They know they stand out, they notice the differences, and they deal with their past often on a daily basis.
They don’t need to be reminded of these things by questions that come across differently than intended. Compliments are a great way to acknowledge and affirm them.
**For a funny point of reference regarding this topic, watch this youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeT3c9TmxLE