Back to School: Talking about Adoption
To tell or not to tell? “How much information do I need to share? Am I being overly sensitive or is my child’s teacher being insensitive? Will my concerns be taken into consideration?” These are all questions adoptive families struggle with when trying to educate teachers and administrators on adoption related issues.
Parents have to decide who to share information with and how information to share. Every situation will vary but in general parents will have to decide “How can my child benefit from sharing this information?” It can be a fine line between advocating for versus labeling a child.
Benefits may include the teacher being more aware of gaps in learning, addressing behavioral issues, children who separation anxiety or have a hard time transitioning from one task to another, attention, and family tree assignments. It also gives parents the ability to learn more about services that are offered by the local public school system. Many services are available that may assist your child in the classroom like speech therapy, tutoring, classroom assistance, or an individual education plan.
Sharing a limited amount of information with your child’s teacher may also provide you with the opportunity to be an “ambassador of adoption.” For younger children you may be able to read a book about adoption to your child’s class for older children participating in a cultural activity. I’ve taught preschoolers and elementary age children to count to ten in Russian, and taken tea cakes and beets to school for the kids to sample. Keeping the lines of communication open are important to help your child navigate the classroom successfully. Questions school age children are often asked at school:
· Where is your real Mom?
· Didn’t she want you?
· Why were you adopted?
· How do you know what you will look like when you grow up?
Are you going to try to find your real family?
Both children and adults need a working understanding of adoption. Preparing children with open honest information helps then normalize the concept of adoption. It may help them deflect loaded questions and allow them to move from “he’s adopted” to cool his parents chose him.