Adoptive Parents: 3 Responses When You Feel ‘On Display!’

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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If you're an adoptive parent, you might identify with this scenario:

You’re walking into a restaurant with your spouse and children behind you, excited to enjoy some delicious fast-food pasta or deathly, oops, I mean deep fried french fries, when suddenly you realize the environment around you has changed. From the corner of your eye you can see them-

Other restaurant patrons who have relaxed the grip on their frosty shakes and have now taken up the job of staring at you and your children.

If their stares could speak audibly they would say something like, “Wow, two white people with black children, what’s up with that?” Or, “Guess they couldn’t have their own children so they adopted.” More appropriately, in reference to our choice to adopt from foster care, “What did their parents do they had to take those children in?” [you could insert any ridiculous comment here and it would fit, I promise!].

Most likely, if you’re a multi-race adoptive family like mine, you’ve seen this play out or experienced it in someway before. I cannot even begin to count the many times we’ve had stares or even racist comments made to us in a a public place. Our knee-jerk reaction: grab all of our kids and make a run for it, get to our house, turn off the lights, shut the doors, and hide out!

What I’ve found, however, is there are healthier ways to handle this unwanted publicity. We’ve been adoptive parents for over a decade now and have walked through the fire of people’s cold stares and awkward comments hundreds of times. Here’s are 3 responses we’ve put into practice in our family…

  • Embrace our Freakiness.
    We’ve embraced the fact that our family structure is weird, different, and far from ordinary. Out of 300 million Americans, hundreds of thousands are adoptive families, and many are multi-race adoptive families. We must celebrate how interesting our family really is.
  • Give info, but not too much info.
    A long, long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away…sorry, just felt it was necessary to say that), we had a very good friend, who was also an adoptive parent, give us some great advice when we adopted our first child. She told us, “You’re daughter’s story is her story, don’t share too much info so that you give other people information that is not their’s to share.” Great advice. We live in a ‘gawker’ generation. Everyone wants to be in everyone else’s business all the time. We slow down and stare at car accidents, jerk our heads around when we see a fight about to break out, crave the gossip magazines, or pour over reality TV shows. The same is true when it comes to our family and yours. People want information that isn’t theirs and frankly is none of their business. Be careful what info you give out.
  • Be courteous- 
    The last thing we want to do is give people the wrong impression of our family, or adoption. In the midst of fielding ridiculous comments or questions, we come out on top when we are courteous and kind in response. We can still politely refuse to give intimate details on our family structure. In fact, we would strongly recommend this to any adoptive parent reading this. Remember that your business is your business. You owe no one an explanation for the reason you’re an adoptive family or the reason your children came to live with you (if you fostered to adopt).

While there will be times when you feel like you’re an exhibit at a museum (or perhaps the zoo), most people are just curious. The healthiest response (for you and your family) may be to give them the benefit of the doubt. We have decided that if another person’s sole interaction with adoption is their interaction with our family, then we want them to walk away having the best experience possible.

Question: Adoptive (or pre-adoptive) parents: have you had similar experiences? How did you navigate through the stares, awkward moments, or innapropriate questions? Comment now!

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.