To Tell or Not: When to Tell People Your Child Is Adopted

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Great tranquility of heart is his who cares for neither praise nor blame. ~ Thomas a Kempis

Credit: geekyspaz.

One of the typical challenges I find as an adoptive mother is when to tell people my son Jed is adopted and when not to. I’m not talking about family members or close friends here, and I’m certainly not talking about small talk at an office holiday party. No, I mean neighbors, teachers, bus drivers, doctors, babysitters; people you know and trust but maybe aren’t really in the "let’s share secrets" circle.

Now, normally I wouldn’t really care to tell anyone Jed is adopted, mostly because it’s personal and really nobody’s business. How would you like it if your mother went around telling everyone you were adopted? Besides, I can’t say that my neighbors, bus drivers or grocery store clerks have ever said to me, “Hi, I’m adopted.”

No, where my challenge comes in is when I am dealing with Jed's special needs. Jed has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder because he was exposed to drugs and alcohol prenatally. He has all of the primary symptoms of FASD, a lot of which are unfortunately behavioral. So, to tell or not to tell? Let me give you some examples.

We went to our pediatrician to get a referral for a child neurologist for Jed. This particular pediatrician had only treated him for colds and such, so when we told him what we were there for he started lecturing us about the effects of alcohol on children. Halfway through he looked at me and said, “Is he adopted?” to which I replied yes, he is. He said, “Oh, good, ‘cause you don’t look like a closet boozer. I’ll skip the talk about you looking into rehab.”

Example number two. When Jed first started kindergarten he took the bus. I knew that the school district put an alert for FASD on his transportation paperwork so the bus driver would know that he was impulsive. The morning bus driver who picked him up (different than the driver that dropped him off) was very friendly and within a week or two we got to chatting every morning. We even went out to lunch a couple of times. After four months of this, she finally said to me one day, “What’s with the FASD?” I said, "What do you mean? Have you had any problems with him?" She said, “No, I was just wondering if you start your drinking in the morning after I pick him up.”


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