Summer has ended and it’s time to send the kiddos back to school. Sometimes discussing adoption can be tricky when speaking with school aged children who don’t have a personal connection to adoption, so we compiled some ways for teachers and parents to incorporate conversations about adoption into the classroom and household.
A good place to start when talking to youngsters about adoption is to ask them to tell you some of the things they already know about adoption and if they know someone close to them that was adopted. When they start to volunteer questions, theories, ideas and facts, just let them talk and don’t challenge what they have to say. Let them know they did a terrific job with coming up with some of the right ideas and that some of them were not quite exact. Explain all that adoption can involve, and that it is a loving but difficult choice for birth parents to make.
Anticipate that you will be asked lots of questions after your discussion about adoption and there is no shame in being stumped or not knowing how to give an adequate answer. Just let the child know you will check back after doing some research of your own! As a parent it is up to you to decide at what age you want to talk about adoption with your child at home or in the classroom, but know that by the ages of nine or ten children will understand enough to ask fairly sophisticated questions and contribute ideas about adoption to the conversation.
Here are some helpful hints to share with your child’s teacher or to use at home!
• Mention the words “adopted” or “adoption” every now and again when you talk about babies, families, or when you are telling stories.
• Choose stories to read or movies to watch that mention or incorporate the theme of adoption. “Dinosaur Train” on PBS is a great show that kids will love.
• Make sure that the pictures and books in your classroom reflect the diversity in the world.
• As you discuss different kinds of families, always mention adoptive families.
• If a student in the class has a baby born into their family, use this as an opportunity to mention that some children join families through adoption.
• Consider a class activity for National Adoption Awareness Month (November), such as having an adoptive parent visit.
• Be sensitive to the fact that children in this stage generally want to fit in and be the same as their classmates. They are very unlikely to want to be singled out because they are adopted, or for any reason for that matter.
• Present the Family Tree exercise with several alternatives for the whole class, describing how the exercise can be adopted for adopted children or other situations such as being raised in other non-traditional families.
• Mention that many famous people are adoptees: Former President Gerald Ford, Stephen Jobs, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, even Superman.
Middle and High School
• Suggest adoption as one of the themes for essay or journal writing, allow students to explore their feelings.
• Introduce family history assignments sensitively, mentioning alternatives and noting that some students may not have access to their birth relatives because of divorce, death, adoption or various other reasons.
• Mention adoption in science class in connection with genetic studies, noting those traits, skills, and characteristics which are inherited and those which are acquired.
• In family life and sex education classes, discuss families formed by adoption. Explain adoption as a choice for people who face an unplanned pregnancy.
Talking about adoption with a classroom of children or with your child one-on-one can help provide them with information that they may not have had access to before. As a result of adoption education you can also connect with many other adoptive families that you may not have known where adoptive families—expanding the network of support for all of your adopted children.