Should My Children Be Grateful For Being Adopted?

Adoptive parents are sensitive folks.  Really, every group is.  There are some things that will get us all revved up.  My “triggers” are asking about “real mom,” asking if I have my own children, or really anything that suggests that I or my children are “less than,” in any way.  I’ve tried to lighten up over the years.  Luckily, the people around me are supportive of me when I don’t succeed.  But, one thing that I see a lot is adoptive parents or adoptees complaining about people saying that the kids were lucky to be adopted or that the parents are saints/angels/heroes for adopting.  They say that children shouldn’t have to be grateful to have a family or feel like they owe their parents something for being their parents.  The theory being that it puts a lot of pressure on the child to be good enough to deserve such a gift.  It’s a valid theory.

But, I never knew that this was supposed to offend me.  I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve heard that I’m an angel.  Quite frankly, I enjoyed being called an angel. 😉   I have always said, though, that we are lucky to have each other whenever someone would tell the kids how lucky they are.  Because that’s what I think.  We ARE lucky to have each other.  In this world full of random coincidences and confusing, complicated universe plans…we found each other.  How lucky is that??

So, here’s my take.  I do think my kids are lucky to have us.  I do want them to be grateful to have been adopted and have a family.  And, I do think it’s ok for random people who mean well to point that out.  But, not because we are such wonderful, perfect people.  We’re not awful, but we sure aren’t perfect.  Not because they should be perfect.  How could I live up to that if they were?  But, because everybody should be grateful for what they have.  And, everybody should be aware of what blessings are in their  life.  Because like one of my favorite books as a child reminded me, it can always be worse.

They should be aware that every child will not be adopted so they should be grateful to have a family.  Because every child won’t. 

Do I want Kaleb to understand that while he’s upset that he contributed $26 to his $150 replacement phone after he broke his…again; his oldest biological brother is working his butt off on the other side of town, just trying to make ends meet, save for a car so he doesn’t have to walk an hour to work every day, and do it on his own with no support (except us, but that’s for another blog)?   Yes. 

Do I want all four of them to understand that while they are making up excuses not to wash their dishes, they are fortunate to even have food to eat.  And, that there are kids who aged out of the system living on the streets or kids in foster homes who don’t get to eat what they want when they want?  Yes.

They should be grateful for that.  But, they’re not always.

But, here’s the thing.  We should be grateful, too  We should be aware that every adult will not be a parent so we should be grateful to have children.  Because every adult won’t.

When my kids are driving me crazy or I am frustrated with how demanding this whole mom gig is, I try to remember that.  Sometimes, Brian and I will just sit and talk about how it was before (you know, when we had more money and freedom, haha) and how much we wanted this.  We remember the moments that we met them and the relief when we knew that they were 100% ours.  It’s important to remember these things and feel grateful for how fortunate we are. 

So, yes, they should be grateful.  Yes, they should count their lucky stars that they don’t have to doubt that they will be loved forever.  Yes, they should try to be the best little humans that they can be, but then feel secure in the knowledge that they will be loved no matter how many times they mess up.

Because we all should.  We should all be grateful for whatever we have.  A loving family, a great job, or the elusive jeans that actually fit.  We should all be grateful and we should all try to do our best.

So, no, if you tell us we are lucky, I won’t get upset.  If you say that I’m an angel, I won’t be offended.  Because, again, who doesn’t like hearing good things about themselves, haha?  And,  the reality is that we did do a good thing that not everyone would (but, more people should) and I am proud of that.  But, we weren’t trying to do some great selfless act.  We just set out to build a family.  And, my kids should be proud of how we came to be that family and they’re part in that.  And, they should know that we are all so very lucky. 

I can’t guarantee how others will react, though, so if you’re not looking to be an angry topic in some other adoptive mom’s facebook post then you might want to stick with safe comments like “your children are beautiful” or “congratulations on being a family.” 😉 

They have a point.  Every child really does deserves a loving family.  They really are entitled to that and should have the luxury of taking that for granted.  But, sadly, that is not the reality.  No matter how much I wish it was. 

So, I’m going to keep trying to raise happy, healthy, and, yes, grateful kids.  Because we sure are grateful for them. 🙂 


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22 thoughts on “Should My Children Be Grateful For Being Adopted?

  1. I guess my perspective is that my son should be grateful, but that I cannot ask or expect him to be. Just like you can't ask or expect a bio kid to be grateful to be born. I hope in time he will be grateful, but it would be wrong to point to his aging out sister, or the other kid we almost adopted instead of him and say, \”be grateful, that could have been you. \”


  2. I think there's a difference between \”be grateful for the things you have that are not universal, even if they should be\” (like expecting our kids to be grateful to have a safe place to live, food to eat, etc) and \”be grateful to have been adopted\” (and therefore never express any feelings of loss or curiosity about your birth/biological/first family). I do expect (or hope to instill) the first sort of gratitude in all 5 of my kids (3 bio, 2 adopted). But the adult adoptee blogs I read talk about hearing the \”be grateful\” in the latter sense, as though it is said when they express a desire to know more about their family of origin or to search for family members. My own knee-jerk reaction against expecting gratitude is formed in that light. I don't want my adopted girls to ever feel as though they \”owe me\” for having become the parent that their biological mother couldn't be. I don't want them to feel as though they should have more gratitude for being in our home than my biological kids are expected to have. I have been called a \”saint,\” somewhat frequently. I don't mind hearing it from randoms or casual acquaintances, who I can dismiss has having good intentions. But when extended family talks that way? I feel like I have to protect the adopted kids from being surrounded by unreasonable expectations and from being set-apart from my biological kids. Your kids have more memories of their biological families than mine will (mine both came to me as newborns from the hospital). I don't think the sort of gratitude you're hoping for is unreasonable. I just don't think it's the same gratitude that has some adoptive parents and/or adoptees speaking out.


  3. Thank you for this topic. Until this summer, I was one of the parents that would speak up about how my children shouldn't be grateful for losing their biological family and ultimately getting adopted by us. I never wanted my kids to feel like they \”owed\” us anything.Then our daughter (adopted at 16) turned 18 and decided to bolt. There were no arguments, no ultimatums, no reasons. She just told us she wasn't coming home and didn't care about the consequences. My friend took her in and tried to help her gain some life skills (and hopefully a job) for 6 long weeks. Then my daughter told her the same thing, she just wasn't coming back & didn't care about the consequences. I struggled to understand how she could be so ungrateful. She had a phone she didn't have to pay for, transportation wherever & whenever she wanted to see friends/boyfriends, tons of personal belongings, an opportunity to graduate early with a gifted car, and a family who loved her. She purposely burned the bridges. She knows she did, admits she did, but does not care.Because of this experience, I am re-evaluating how I approach our other kids (1 biological & 1 adopted) with being grateful for the right things. And this blog, along with some of the comments, have really helped me to figure out what to focus on so my kids don't think they \”owe\” us anything but their best.Thank you!


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