Words are important!
The words we choose to essentially communicate the same thing can be the difference in so many areas of our personal and professional lives.
It is sometimes as simple as the difference between:
“No problem” vs “Definitely”
“Can’t complain” vs “Everything is going well”
“I’m exhausted” vs “I need to rest”
“Don’t” vs “I like it when”.
Many of these terms or phrases we have never thought about being a slow negative drip in our conversations. In this case, once we see it, we can’t unsee it.
In our big hearted adoption world, the awareness of positive vs negative language in our everyday vocabulary and communication is an important component of creating a healthy and safe environment for expectant moms, our birthmoms, adoptive families, and staff. At Destiny, we focus acutely on practicing positive language and we help educate the people we have the honor to work with to help create a positive language culture in the adoption process and beyond.
Here are just a few easily implemented real world changes we can make together:
-/+ “Real Parent” / “Birth Parent, Biological Parent, First Mom”
Both an adoptive mom and a birth mom feel the right to describe themselves as a real parent because they both are. Simply put in many case, one carries the child for several months and sacrifices her body and life to create this beautiful child and gives birth, while the other is creating a home and receiving the baby as her child to raise and love. But the exclusivity of the word “real” makes this phrase negative and at times hurtful. Instead, we suggest using the word “Birthmom” or “First Mom” to make it clear that this is the mom that carried and gave birth and to not exclude the efforts of an “adoptive mom” in her right to feel like mom and parent too.
-/+ “Give (gave) baby up” / “Choose (chose) adoption for”
We hear all the time in TV or movies or the news, “she gave up her baby for adoption at 15 years old”. It has unfortunately become the main phrase that many birth parents use when they are considering placing a child for adoption. It has become the #1 cultural reference to the adoption process and the #1 search term on google for moms who are contemplating their options. We never ever want anyone to think that a child or the rights to participate in that child’s life is being given up. A baby is not commodity or asset that belongs in a transaction. Each baby that is placed for adoption is a bundle of a million dreams and possibilities that must know that this was an informed, compassionate and thoughtful choice. It is important that an expectant mom who is considering adoption feels powerful in her choice no matter what she chooses.
-/+ “Keep my (your) baby” / “Parent my (your) child”
“She decided to keep her baby and we are still on the list”. We hear this all too often when a mom decides to parent. The reality is when someone chooses adoption it is not because they don’t want to keep their baby like a pair of Nike’s that are no longer stylish or comfortable. They have usually made that decision because they are feeling that they are not ready to parent that child. It is important that we recognize this distinction and make it a part of our language in communicating and empowering these important decisions.
-/+ “…is adopted” / “…was adopted”
This may not seem like there is a great distinction in these two, but in the heart and mind of an adoptee it is extremely important. The adoption is not a current part of the identity of the child. It might be the beautiful reason why that child is in a particular family but it does not mark or label or separate the child from any other child in the family or any other family.
These simple changes will help greatly in our collective effort to bring health, safety, and wholeness to adoption and the wonderful families, expectant moms, birthparents, and staff involved.