Bullying and teasing in the community of adoption is an incredibly important topic, particularly in the situation of international adoption where there are racial and/or cultural differences inside of the adoptive family. It can be such a helpless experience to know that your child, teen or young adult is dealing with the inaccurate and inappropriate assumptions and beliefs that others hold.
Each situation is different, of course, but here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind:
Your first response should always be something like, “I’m glad you came to me about this,” or “I’m glad you told me so we can think about it together.”
One emphasis is that parents often end up focusing on is how to respond to the person who is doing the bullying. While this is important, it is 50/50 that the child will actually implement what you come up with. They might say, “I could try that,” or “I guess that would work,” which often translates as, “That’s not going to happen.” It can potentially break down the connection that you’re building with them because if and when something happens again, which it often does, they may anticipate that if they talk with you, you’ll just give them the same suggestions and ideas, and they may even worry that you’ll be upset that they didn’t follow your plan in the first place.
It’s better to emphasize that what they did was inappropriate, wrong and they shouldn’t have done that. Emphasize that they do not really know your child and their assumptions are wrong and your child deserves to have people in their life who take the time to know him or her.
The second mistake involves the instinct of parents to take up the cause and rush in to get involved. I know as a parent how much our blood churns when a child mistreats or is mean to or excluding of our child. And, there are times when it’s a good idea to intervene. But, proceed with caution! Every child wants to be protected and attended to but most don’t want to be the subject of a cause. When parents crusade in, sometimes they can leave their child behind in the process, without realizing it. Remember that more than anything else, you want your child to have a strong sense of worth and to feel empowered to take on the next bozo who comes their way.
I’m glad you told me.
You don’t deserve that. They should not have done that. That was wrong.
I’m here for you and I’d like to help. Let’s take some time to think through it together.