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Behind a Common Playground Insult

A common playground pejorative, not to mention a popular sibling slur is, “You’re adopted.”

While a seemingly tongue-in-cheek putdown, the verbal jab, when weaponized, can have harmful effects. Ironically, the most common targets are siblings who share the same biological parents.

Still, the insult reflects false and antiquated stereotypes of adoption. Regardless of how they became part of the family, the target may feel different and isolated with feelings that they do not belong. The barb also creates uncertainty, as if what they have known for their entire life is not reality.

Even worse, it can affect a child’s sense of self and worth. They wonder if their biological parents tasked to love and take care of them instead abandoned them with little disregard.

Conversely, a false adoption revelation can serve as a faux admission by a sibling to create differentiation, if not outright distance from loved ones. Their “dream” is common, particularly if a family is rife with dysfunction.

Adoption has come a long way from the stereotypes portrayed by old movies where children are packed into a room with beds side by side. Many are desperately waiting for new parents before they “age out,” all the while witnessing their younger compatriots finding families.

Experts believe that children too young to know if they were adopted should be told as early as possible. When sitting down with the child, the story should end with something akin to the famous story closing, “and they lived happily ever after,” without focusing on the reasons that biological parents gave them up.

Regardless of how families came together, adopted kids aren’t exclusively problem children who are troubled, bordering on “bad seeds.” And, while they have origin stories, they are not super-heroes.

These children are members of a family, with or without a biological link.

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