The summer is coming to a close and that means it is time for the kids to head back to school. As a parent, you might be curious about ways to make sure your child’s classroom is an accepting environment for their adoption story and we wanted to give you some of the tools to ensure a safe and happy school year!
Write a letter to your child’s teacher
Your child’s teacher could greatly benefit from a brief explanation of your family’s background and this will give you an opportunity to make it be known that you are available as a resource for their classroom. You can even provide the teacher with the correct language to use when discussing adoption in the classroom setting. Children might ask questions and arming your child’s teacher with the right responses is invaluable.
Q: “Where are Julia’s real parents?”
A: “Julia’s real parents are the parents who are raising him, Matthew and Caroline, who pick him up from school each day. She also has birth parents who gave birth to her.”
Q: “Why didn’t Julia’s first family want her?”
A: “They probably wanted her very much but weren’t able take care of any baby at that time. Julia’s birth parents wanted her to have a family to love her and take care of her forever.”
Q: “Where is Julia from?”
A: “She’s from Pennsylvania. She was born in China, but now she’s a U.S. citizen, like you.”
Q: “Does she speak Chinese?”
A: “No. Julia came to the America when she was a baby. She was not speaking any language at the time just like most babies.
Educate the school’s faculty
While you are in letter writing mode, consider reaching out to the school principal or the parent-teacher association suggesting an adoption training session for staff. Some open adoption agencies, like Adoptions From The Heart, offer educational courses for families that could be attended by your child’s teacher or the school faculty.
Adoptive Families outlined five viral points for education professionals to understand (you can communicate these in your letter):
- Adoption is an open and natural topic in your family. Teachers should not be afraid to discuss it or to answer students’ questions.
- Children born in a different country are not experts on the language or culture of that country.
- There are neither real families nor fake families. Adoptive parents are parents like any others.
- Genetics can be taught without requiring students to trace their nuclear family’s roots.
- Parents of all types will appreciate more inclusive versions of “star of the week,” as well as autobiographical timeline and family tree projects.
Navigating tough assignments with your child’s teacher
Like we mentioned above, more inclusive versions of classic school projects are better designed and you can discuss and present your child’s teacher with multiple options for the entire class, not just your child. Adoptive Families provided yet another great list of more inclusive projects that you can share with your child’s teacher:
- Family Tree: Students can draw themselves on the trunk of a tree and someone whom they love on each branch, regardless of biological or adoptive relationships. Or they can place names of adoptive family members in the branches of a tree and birth family members in its roots. Using a house metaphor in lieu of a tree allows flexibility to incorporate all members of a child’s family.
- Timeline: Instead of starting with their birth dates, children can cite memorable events from each calendar year they’ve been alive; older students can create a timeline that includes a national or world event from each year they have been alive.
- Star of the Week: Request that students bring in photographs of themselves from a year or two ago, rather than baby photos.
Class Room Activities
Read or Donate an Adoption Storybook to the Classroom
Stories are a great way to introduce new topics to younger children. You can simply read to your child’s class during their regular story hour time or consider giving an adoption presentation which we will explain further. We review popular adoption books on this very blog, our most recent post has some great suggestions or feel free to bring your child’s favorite!
Give an adoption presentation
This is a creative way to explain adoption to your child’s classmates. Adoptive Families suggests you explain adoption in a general way, rather than tell your child’s particular story. Using dolls or other props will help non-adopted kids relate.
Here’s their simple, parent-tested presentation to use as a model:
- Bring in one of your child’s dolls or stuffed animals. Tell everyone her name — Sandy, for example — and let each student hold her.
- Ask the kids to help complete two lists on the blackboard: “What babies need” (bottles, food, clothes, hugs, and so on) and “What parents do” (feed, clothe, change, hug and kiss, and so on). If the kids don’t say “bring babies into the world,” add it to the parents’ list.
- Tell them that Sandy’s birth parents brought her into the world, but that they realized they could not do all the other things parents do.
- Tell them that Sandy’s forever parents wanted to do all those things for her, even though they didn’t bring her into this world.
- Finish by explaining that Sandy has two sets of real parents — her real birth parents and her real forever family — and that she needs both to be who she is.
- Don’t forget food! End your classroom presentation with a snack.
Throughout the school year, you can make sure to keep adoption in the conversation. Here are some suggestions for you to explore!
- Educate other parents who might want to talk to their children about adoption
- Spearhead a community service project during National Adoption Month
- Donate a packet of materials for educators at the school
Are there other ways that you stay involved in your child’s school? Let us know in the comments!