Let's face it, as adoptive families we frequently must field intrusive/offensive questions about our family, children and adoption. What Do I Say Now? by Carol Bick and M. C. Baker, illustrated by Sophie Meyer helps us address this issue. The book uses a question and answer format. Many include several alternative responses--a Quick Fix, often humorous reply, one that Raises Awareness and a Take Home choice that speaks to the parent.
What Do I Say Now? includes an introduction to guide parents on how to use it effectively. Adoptive families will welcome this resource as a way to prepare themselves and their children on how to confront or deflect inappropriate and intrusive questions.
Such dress rehearsal benefits both parent and child, first, as a way of discussing these points as a family. This will help uncover misunderstandings that the child might have. It will allow parent and child to define boundaries about what they want to share and what they choose to keep private within the family.
One of the most important lessons parents can impart to their children is that it is appropriate and encouraged for children to refuse to answer rude questions--even those posed by adults. By rehearsing some responses, kids can answer with intention instead of blindsided reactions. Plus, it demonstrates that such discussions are welcome and encouraged within the family. This fosters a family atmosphere of openness and approachability.
In the absence of a clear invitation and because they want to shelter parents from these kind of offensive conversations, kids will often assume that they must handle rude questions without parental support or input. Kids keep experiences and feelings locked inside themselves where they fester and distress them. Many of them mistakenly believe their parents want them to only acknowledge the positive aspects of adoption. Parents must consistently convey their willingness to acknowledge both the gains and losses which adoption accrues to their children.
Another important benefit of sharing a book like What Do I Say Now? is to remind parents of the critical need to define the conversation boundaries about adoption so they can reduce--even better, eliminate, the incidences of children suffering these toxic conversation encounters. It is a parent's worst nightmare when people ask questions like, "How much did you pay for your Susie?" within earshot of your child. Learn how to anticipate, deflect and shut down questioners in a way that respects and protects the children and does not leave them feeling diminished or depersonalized. Be assertive.
We explored this in an earlier blog: "Consider the effect such hurtful comments have on our children. Be assertive in setting boundaries with others. Step in immediately to cut short any conversation that is inappropriate or hurtful. While our natural inclination is to be polite and avoid a confrontation with a rude, unthinking, or judgmental person, we must be vigorous in holding safe boundaries for our children. Vigilance is essential. Hurtful words, once spoken cannot be erased. They take an especially raw toll on kids with trauma histories." Read more "Little Ears Have Sensitive Hearts.