You Don’t Look Like Your Parents


Our friend, who submitted this question during a Q&A, is dealing with a common interaction in which someone curious about adoption wonders aloud about a particular layer of another person’s adoption experience.

For me, my response to statements like these over the years has become more about the person asking than about me. At first, I’d feel a little awkward, confused, or even a bit upset if a question/statement like this came up (these are all safe and essential and NORMAL feelings!). I mean, yes of course I don’t look like my parents, I’m adopted.

But I wonder, who’s asking? What would they like to know? What were they looking for, how were they hoping/expecting I’d respond? Or, what would they like me to know about them as they voice their observation about my family? Would they feel ok if I chose to talk about something else?

And for those interested in self reflection, an EMDR prompt might ask, “What am I feeling right now as I hear that statement? Where does that come from? And where in my body do I feel that, what’s it saying?”

For me, I’ve sometimes felt a knot in my stomach, or tightness in my chest. When I was a kid, those sensations might have been telling me, “I’m sad. I’m really sad and I miss my mom, I miss Korea.”

Later on as a teen and young adult, a statement like this might evoke a similar feeling, but with additional layers of strength, humility, and perspective – traits I’ve been able to hold with a sense of faith and hope.

Dear adoptee, there’s of course a thousand ways to respond to a statement like this. Whichever way you choose, I’m with you. I think what’s important is you’re considering it with courage, honesty, and intention. My hope is you’d continue processing these dimensions of your adoption experience with those you trust and love. Thanks for inviting me into that journey.


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