Adoptive families, especially mixed-race ones, stand out everywhere they go. As a white mom with a Filipino husband and a black son, I’ve been stopped at the park, the pool, in restaurants and on the street by strangers wanting to know something about my family. Even friends and family often stumble over terminology, saying or asking things that are painful or irrelevant without thinking.

Adoption is the best thing that ever happened to us. Our son fills us with joy, and his ebullience and enthusiasm for life are contagious. But adoption is a complex, emotional journey that lasts a lifetime. We adopted our son at birth in an open adoption. While we felt like the luckiest people on earth, our joy was tinged with sadness for his birth mother’s empty arms.

Adoptive families don’t mind questions that come from a place of caring and connection, and most of us will talk your ear off about our family story under the right circumstances. The key is not to dive into adoption right of the bat, and avoid asking probing questions out of naked curiosity, especially in front of children.

Here’s what not to say to an adoptive parent.

[ITPGallery]

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