Remind me not to ask “Dear Kelly” for advice

Contra Costa Times

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I am adopted. I’m Asian and the rest of my family is Caucasian. I have
never felt that my family loves me any less. Other kids and sometimes
even adults make insensitive comments, however, and I don’t know how to
react. They say things such as, "You must be adopted." Why do they feel
the need to tell me something that I already know? Or, "What happened
to your ‘real parents?’" I don’t know what happened to my natural
parents, but my "real parents" are the ones I have lived with all my

I don’t know how to respond. I have a very American-sounding
name, and they ask how that can be my name when I don’t "look"
American. I have a sister and we are close and get along great. Kids
often say we’re not "real sisters." I’m sick and tired of these
questions and comments. What is the best way to deal with this? —
Thank you.

A: The best way to deal with it is to accept the fact that people can
be insensitive and you can’t let it drag you down. Just because someone
says something stupid doesn’t mean you should get upset and take it
personally. People will say things that appear rude and inconsiderate.
That’s just part of life.

Speak confidently when you talk about your family. You are absolutely
correct that your parents and sister are your real family. You should
have no problem clearly stating this to people. If some folks have a
hard time "getting it," than it’s their problem. State what you
believe, let it go and move on.

On face value, it appears that "Kelly" is giving good advice – don’t let the negative comments get you down, speak confidently about your family, etc.

Except that it’s not just that easy to "let it go and move on."

How about validating that it’s difficult for anyone who is in a family that mainstream society doesn’t recognize as "normal?"

This teen "takes it personally" because it IS personal. People are questioning how she can be who she is, and insinuating that her family isn’t "real."

How about expressing some compassion?

How about taking 5 minutes to Google "transracial adoption" to find some resources for this teen, to help her with her problems.

Instead of making her feel bad about feeling bad.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

3 thoughts

  1. I have always been annoyed by people who give me advice or give me a “if i were you…” speach when they couldn’t possibly know how it feels. This usually happens after racial indident. I told a friend (who is white) about one of these times and she said, “well, if I had been there I would have said…” “you just call me the next time it happens!”. While I appreciate her desire to protect me, I don’t want protection. I feel bad enough that I stand there in shock and say nothing when someone calls me a name, etc. I don’t want a rescue, just a little understanding. And I don’t just get over it.

  2. Yeah, I love the way she says, “it’s their problem.” It’s obviously not “their” problem since the adoptee is the one left dealing with it.
    Kelly’s reply is dismissive and insensitive, not to mention totally unhelpful. What bothers me even more is that this teen seems to have no resources other than this inadequate “advice” lady. Where are her parents and why doesn’t she know about all the support groups and TRA resources out there?
    I wish we could get in touch with her and point her to some resources!

  3. Yeah – on its own it’s just not enough of an answer for the question being asked. Kelly the advice guru should have been more validating of her feelings and shown more compassion for what she was feeling as you said – clearly she wasn’t in her bite size advice, and she could have without being verbose if that was her concern.
    I just hope Kelly’s response/advice wasn’t the same as her parents’ – but then again maybe that’s why she was writing in, because she didn’t feel she had any other places to turn other than some misc. advice columnist – which is telling about the state of adoption resources and education.
    Thanks for posting this…I hope lots of parents read it.

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