How to Answer Difficult Questions About Being Adopted in Identity

People can often ask very personal questions about your adoption and it can be tricky to know how to respond. We teamed up with Scottish Adoption, who worked with a group of adopted young people to help you respond to some of the difficult questions you might get asked at school.

1) Why were you adopted?

You might feel that this question is too personal and not want to disclose that information, in this case you could respond by saying "it's private" or "I don't want to talk about that." If you're happy to disclose a little bit of information you could respond without giving too much detail by saying, "my birth parents weren't able to look after me."

It’s important to remember that you're in charge of the information about your adoption and you should never feel pressured to respond more than you feel comfortable with.

2) Where are your 'real' parents?

You might not like the term 'real' being used, as your adoptive parents are your real parents. If you want to educate the person using this terms you can say "I think you mean my birth parents." If you don't want to further the discussion you could simply say "I don't know."

3) Have you ever met your 'real' mum or dad?

Again, you might not feel comfortable with the use of the word 'real' and you can correct the person asking about their use of this term, or answer "yes, I live with them" to challenge their use of the word 'real.' If you are happy to disclose some information you might respond, “yes, I lived with them when I was a baby.”

4) Did your 'real' parents not want you?

It may be the case that the person asking this questions isn't aware of how sensitive a subject it is. You might want to tell them, "I don’t want to answer that question or you could respond by saying, “they did want me but they couldn’t look after me.”

5) Do you miss your 'real' parents?

Depending on your history with your birth parents you could respond, “I sometimes think about my birth parents and wonder where they are and what they are doing” or, in other circumstances, you may wish to say, “ I don’t think about my birthparents very much.” Again you could educate the person asking by saying "my adoptive parents are my real parents." 

6) Do you have any brothers or sisters

It is up to you whether you want to disclose information about siblings you have with your birth parents. You may just choose to answer "yes I have a sister" - in reference to your adoptive sister, if you are speaking to someone you don't know well. If you're talking to someone you're comfortable with you may want to tell them "Yes I have a sister, and I have two brothers through my birth parents who live elsewhere."

7) Why don't you look like your mum or dad?

If someone doesn't know that you are adopted and points out that you don't look like your parents you may wish to tell them that you're adopted or if you don't feel like going into detail you can simply say "I don't know" or "Oh don't you think so?"

8) How does it feel to be adopted?

The person asking may not realise that for you, being adopted may not feel any different than how they feel about not being adopted. You could respond by saying "I don't know any differently" or "I just feel the same as you do, I'm no different from you."

9) Being asked to complete a family tree project

The way that the teacher handles this project can make such a difference, and either you or your parents might want to discuss with the teacher that it could be a sensitive issue for yourself or other pupils who are adopted or fostered. What can help is teachers introducing this subject by talking about how the concept of family is different for everyone and families take different forms. You might choose to base your family tree solely on your adoptive family or if you know a bit about your birth parents you may wish to include both.

Remember: it is always up to you how much you wish to disclose to anyone about your family situation and you should never feel pressured to talk about something that is too private to you.

Sometimes people can just be curious about situations which are different from theirs and don't realise that their questions may be intrusive, or that your relationship with your parents is no different to their relationship with theirs.

For lots more info and support about adoption, have a look at Scottish Adoption.