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Respond gently, graciously to adoption questions

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dear Thelma: My husband and I recently adopted a baby obviously of a different ethnicity than ours and brought our total number of children to three. We are getting asked a lot of personal questions: Can’t you have any more? Are they siblings? How much did she cost? I want to say, “It’s really none of your business.” What’s a better way to let people know I’d like to preserve my privacy without being rude?

A: The simplest and most gracious way to answer confused on-lookers is to simply state, “We are blessed with three wonderful children that reflect the diverse world in which we live. Adoption has been a terrific option for our family.”

Failing to address the more intrusive inquiries may go unnoticed, or better yet might hint at the inappropriate nature of the questions.

If all else fails, you could always respond “Why do you ask? Are you interested in adopting too?” It might get them thinking.


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Dear Thelma: We will be attending an adoption ceremony in the courthouse as my cousin adopts two teenagers. The teens are brother and sister and are really great kids. What should we do as far as gifts? Should they be individual or should we give a family gift for all since he has a teenage son already?

A: This is definitely a time to celebrate family and the fact that these kids are officially joining yours. Doing something for the entire family would be appropriate. That might be a game you know they would enjoy, tickets for the group to a sporting event, or a gift certificate for a particular outing like bowling or the movies.

It also would be fine to give individual gifts in honor of the occasion. You might even consider giving a gift to the biological son in this family, as I’m sure it would be appreciated by all.

You also may know whether certain things like household items or clothes would be of help to them. You can use your insight and your heartsense – that common sense of the heart – to find gifts that will truly honor the occasion and the new family.

Dear Thelma: I am a single mother currently adopting a 12-year-old girl. I am getting asked whether I am having a shower or if I need anything. My daughter came into my home as a foster child with very few possessions, but I also don’t wish to share such personal explanations with everyone who asks. What are the appropriate answers here?

A: Whether it’s a newborn or an older child, many people have a true interest in welcoming that child into a family and do so by their generosity. People who have raised children realize the expense involved in setting up a household for a child and they want to help. They don’t need nor should they expect a detailed explanation in return. The fact that you’ve opened your hearts to each other is all they need to know.

You might want to consider an adoption celebration for you and your daughter. Let her help with the planning and center the party on honoring the creation of your new family. When people ask, let them know the things she would appreciate, like gift certificates for clothes or games, or let them know her interests like art, music or sports so they can choose something appropriate. There also may be household items, bedding or furniture that you need. Many people may have extra that they can spare or will keep an eye out for good deals for you.

Above all, accept their generosity for what it is, the opportunity to play a small part in your family’s success.

Sharing the joy and good manners never go out of style.

Agree or disagree with Thelma’s advice? Post your comments or ask a question about etiquette at Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.