November is Adoption Awareness Month! If your child hasn't come across the concept of adoption yet, this is a perfect time to explain it to your child. With a growing percentage of families formed by adoption each day, your child will certainly encounter friends over the course of his schooling career who come from adoptive families. Here's a starter kit for approaching the topic of adoption with sensitivity and understanding.

Adoption Language with Your Children

For starters, most non-adoptive families need a little help finding the right words to talk about adoption. When your child asks questions about adoption, it’s important to be honest and keep it simple. “Your friend Susie was adopted by her Mommy and Daddy. That means that she grew in another mommy’s body, but she lives with her new family now.”

When a child asks why Susie couldn’t live with her first mother, a simple, honest response is best, says Julie Erwin, Executive Director of Adoption Assistance in Danville, Kentucky. “I don’t know, but probably Susie’s first mommy couldn’t take care of a child at that time, so she wanted her to have a new family that could.”

Adoption Language with Other Adoptive Families

Chances are, you have attempted to make adoption small talk before. While some adoptive families are happy to talk about adoption at any time, others would rather not. But, some sensitivity with your language can go a long way. Here’s a sample list of ways you can choose your words with care.

  • Instead of “Real parents,” use “First parents/biological parents/birthparents”
  • Instead of saying “He’s an adopted kid,” say “He joined their family through adoption”
  • Instead of asking “Are they real sisters?,” ask “Are they biologically related?”
  • Instead of “Did they cost a lot?,” ask “Is adoption expensive?”

The most important thing to remember is the basic principle of privacy. There are many things in our society that are just off-limits to ask a stranger: the price of your home, your yearly salary, information about your sex life. And adoption is no different. While many people are happy to talk about their adoption process, how adoption works, and adoption resources, many want to carefully protect the privacy of their children when it comes to information about their first families. Think before you speak. If something seems like it may be none of your business, then it probably isn’t.

Adoption in Your Family

Studies have shown that over one third of Americans have considered adoption, although no more than 2% of Americans have actually adopted. Many people feel overwhelmed about where to start. With so many adoption options: private domestic, international, or through the foster care system in each state, it can be confusing where to begin. As National Adoption Awareness Month draws to a close, take the opportunity to take that leap and learn more. If you are interested in learning more about adoption, visit