For most families, school is back in full swing and this time of year brings many questions for adoptive families. Should we talk to the teacher about adoption? How will the school react to this information? How can we prepare our child to answer questions from classmates about adoption? Should we just not say anything at all? The answers to these questions are going to be different for every family - however, I hope we can give you some guidance for determining the best approach for you at this time.
The majority of adoptive families with young children have embraced the common belief that talking openly with your children about adoption is the best approach. Adoption is a word and term that is used frequently enough within the family dynamic that young children understand what it means and also have learned that it doesn't have a negative connotation. I am of the opinion that, if you are comfortable talking about a topic, people are less likely to have an uncomfortable reaction when the topic is introduced.
The first recommendation is for adoptive parents to become comfortable with the family's adoption story and decide, in advance, what information is going to be "public information" and what information should be kept private. Remember, being comfortable talking about adoption doesn't mean that you need to share all of the intimate details with complete strangers.
It's a good idea to talk with your child about how they feel about telling his or her teacher that they were adopted at the beginning of each school year. For some children, they don't understand why you wouldn't share that with the teacher and others feel that it may single them out or make them seem different than their peers. What might seem appropriate to them this year, might be totally different next year.
Some of the benefits of talking to the teacher about adoption are: it can help to avoid the awkward situations that arise with some assignments such as the family tree; it can help to build adoption awareness within the classroom and the school; and it can open the dialogue between the family and the teacher for the rest of the school year.
Here are some tools that might be beneficial to your family as you start the new school year:
- A Memo To Teachers - this can help teachers begin to think about how adoption may fit into the classroom and anticipate adjustments that may be necessary.
- Helping Classmates Understand Adoption - a handout for teachers & parents
- Positive Adoption Language - provide the teacher with the proper tools to talk positively about adoption and respond appropriately to inquiries from students
- The Great Back-to-School Kit - 17 ways to bring adoption into the classroom
Whether your child is in preschool or middle school, have a family conversation about adoption and school to determine how to best prepare your child, the teachers, and classmates for a positive and rewarding year ahead!
Share your advice about navigating the school years and positive or negative experiences that you have encountered...we can always best learn from each other...