As with any situation in our lives, word choice really can have a major impact on an adopted child, a birth family, and an adoptive family. There may be no situation that can be as impacted by word choice as the adoption process. It is a very sensitive subject on all sides from the birth parents to the child and adoptive family.

There are several situations in which a simple word can make all the difference. Of course, you likely don’t mean any harm, but a slip with your word choice can cause awkward moments, bad feelings, and insecurities. Let’s take a look at some common word choice mistakes and how you can correct them.

Placing a Child for Adoption vs. Giving Up a Child for Adoption

This is the one that is easiest to mistake because we hear the negative version all the time. The perception of “giving up” a child is a negative one. The birth mother or birth parents are not giving up on the child. They are not discarding the child. They are simply “placing” the child with an adoptive family that is in a better position to give the child the life that he or she deserves.

The perception of giving up a child can be harmful for the child as they feel that they were unwanted by their birth parents which is not the case. In reality, the birth parents made the conscious decision to place the child for adoption because it was best for the child and the adoptive family absolutely wanted the child.

Son or Daughter vs. Adopted Son or Daughter

This one is less likely to occur on a daily basis in your home, but can be common to come from friends, family, and even teachers. The qualifier of “adopted” can be interpreted by the child and others as your adopted child is not equal to your other children or even less valuable or important. Of course, this is not the case.

Taking the time to encourage everyone that is around your child to talk about them as just your son or daughter instead of your adopted son or daughter is very important.  

Birth Parents vs. Real Parents

We’ve all heard of a step child telling their step parent that they “aren’t my real parent”, but the same issue can arise for adopted children. When talking about a child’s biological parents, it’s important to talk about them as the child’s birth or biological parents, not their “real” parents.

The adoptive parents are the child’s “real” parents. Family should be defined by love, not by blood. Referring to the child’s birth parents as his or her “real” parents undermines the adoptive parents and can make the child feel as though they’re out of place.

This can be especially important if the adoption was an open adoption and the birth mother or birth parents are still involved with the family.

Parent vs. Adoptive Parent

Adoptive parents are parents. Whether the child is of their blood and heritage has no bearing on their status as the child’s parents. Parenting is all about raising a child, not conceiving a child. When talking about a friend adopting a child, referring to them as a parent, not an adoptive parent, may seem small, but it really isn’t. The couple that adopted the child likely had desired to be parents for a long time before adopting and adding “adoptive” before parent is another situation where you are essentially qualifying their role and impact on the child.


Many of these subtle word choice changes may seem insignificant or unimportant, but they are very important to the child and the family that adopted the child. While the adoption process and the perception of adoption can be a sensitive topic, it doesn’t have to be. Adoption is simply another way of building a family. Love is all that matters – and word choices, yeah, word choice matters too.

One way that you can show support for your friends or family that have adopted a child is to support the adoption cause. We have started the Tomorrow’s Hope Donation Center and Fund in an effort to assist birth parents and children of adoption throughout the process. We are currently in need of winter items and any donation that you can offer is greatly accepted. Tis the season of giving after all!

Tomorrow's Hope

We are operating full service during this time and will not be shutting down operations. Please let us know how we can help.

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