When kids are cruel.

What happens when your child’s adoption isn’t celebrated by classmates and friends? How do we handle bullying and teasing, and when does it cross the line?

There have been times I just want to lock my kids away from the world or head over to another parents home, knock on their door and say “What are you teaching your kids over here?” I don’t know about you, but it makes me angry when my kids are hurting.

Adoption can be a sensitive subject and older kids can especially have a tough time healing from the brokenness that brought them to this place. We can’t expect  children who have never had this experience to know the magnitude of their words or actions.

“That’s not your real mom anyway” and ‘’they aren’t your real sisters/ brothers/ cousins”. Those words can be super hurtful. Where does it come from?

A simple truth is that hurt people, hurt people. And those people sometimes include children. When other kids are cruel I try to think outside of my anger and frustration to what their home life might be like. What messages are those children getting as they head off to school every morning – who is greeting them that night once everyone is home?

You’ve heard misery loves company- sometimes children dealing with their form of “misery” are looking for others to share in that. I think it’s important to share as much of that perspective as we can with our own kids.

Some other thoughts I’ve shared with my children are;

  • It could be an underlying jealousy- perhaps they have a very difficult family life and this is an easy default mode for them when it comes to insults.
  • It could be misinformation. “Someone’s mom told my dad that you were adopted” with no underlying understanding or explanation of what that even means.
  • And sometimes the intent is just to hurt feelings because kids are kids and say and do stupid things.

So I’d like to share something with you fellow parenting and adoption navigators…

Let’s openly talk to our children about respect and give them accurate information on different families of ALL kinds. We cannot control what other children are taught but we can teach our own.

-Let them know that certain topics are more of a “low blow” than others. You don’t like someone’s hat is a heck of a lot different than you don’t like someone’s brother.

-Tell them to apologize when they overstep. We know they are just kids and they need to learn the nuances of social behavior. Children aren’t going to learn the art of apologizing by instinct, it is something that must be taught.

-Show them what it looks like to defend others when you see something wrong happening. Show them your compassion in action so that they will remember it and be encouraged to act themselves.

And parents, remember that these issues come and go no matter what the topic of ridicule. YOUR response will be the most influential piece when kids are looking for comfort or a reaction. Your insight and guidance is the foundation on which they build their own character, so let’s try to make sure it’s a good one.


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