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Coping Advice for 'Conspicuous Families'

Judy Stigger is director of international adoption at The Cradle, a private, non-profit, Illinois adoption agency. She helped form an affiliated educational group called Adoption Learning Partners, where she created the content for an online workshop called Conspicuous Families: Race, Culture and Adoption. The course was designed to help families who may be considering, or who have already made, a transracial adoption.

Following is advice from the course for adoptive parents about how they should respond to intrusive comments about their transracial adoption.

Consider the spotlight. Children in conspicuous families often feel like a spotlight is shining on them when intrusive questions are asked. When you respond, make sure that whatever you say affirms both your child and your family as a whole. That will take the spotlight off the child and put it on the family, where it belongs.

Observe your child before you respond. There are many ways to respond to an intrusive question or comment. Before you answer, consider your child's mood and temperament and think about how he or she might react to your response.

Your speech about the advantages of international adoption may be informative, but your cranky toddler may not be in the mood. And your humorous answer about your child being left by space aliens may seem funny to you, but not to your shy adolescent.

Protect your child. Questions that seem like harmless curiosity to you, may be hurtful to your child. Think about what your child hears and listen to the intent as well as the words of a question. And listen to your answer as well. Your child will be as sensitive to the answer as to the question. Be sure that your response does not reinforce a negative message contained in the original comment.

Empower your child. Watching you respond to difficult situations will help your child respond to similar situations. When you respond to intrusive questions, vary the answers you use. If they've heard you give many different responses, they know that they too can supply the right answer, when necessary.

There is no way for you to know how you'll deal with these kinds of situations until they arise. Some people see them as an opportunity to explain the joy they've found in adoption, while others see an unwanted intrusion into their private lives. However you feel, you will encounter these types of comments, and you need to find responses that will work for you, your family and your child.

Source: Adoption Learning Partners

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