Back to school means new friends, fun projects, and of course lots of learning. Despite the excitement of this time of year, it can also be a nerve racking one for adoptees and their parents. If your child is old enough to understand the concept of adoption and its role in their life, you might start to wonder if and how to go about discussing adoption with their teachers and classmates.
“Will my child be made fun of?”
“What if there is a family tree project in history class?”
“Will their teachers understand how to be inclusive to all types of families?”
“How will my child react if his or her friends and teachers don’t seem accepting or understanding of adoption?”
These are all questions you may be asking yourself. However, there are many great resources and ideas for you and your child to utilize. After all, you want to make sure they are as comfortable as possible so they can learn as effectively as possible.
Prepare your child
Talking with your child is the first step you should take in preparing them for back to school. Answer any questions they may have themselves and then discuss possible questions others may ask them. The answers you arm your child with depend on what makes sense for your family, but below are some questions you can expect other kids will ask…
- “Who are your real parents?”
- “Why did your real parents give you away?”
- “Where did you come from?”
- “Why is your skin a different color that your mom’s?”
- “Do the parents you have now love you like my mom and dad love me?”
These questions can be tough to answer even with positive adoption language. With unknowing children, it can be even worse. Prepare your child for what they may hear and how they can answer when they want, in a way they are comfortable answering.
Connect with their teacher
The first thing you can ask your child’s teacher for is a curriculum and/or summaries of lesson plans. Let the teacher know your family’s situation and go over the planned classwork with them. If and when you see potentially exclusive lessons to “traditional” families, offer up some ideas to welcome everyone, including your little one.
Some projects you may see in the classroom to discuss with your child’s teacher are…
- Family tree
- Timeline projects
- English or Art biography assignments that involve
- Illustrating your family
- Writing a story about your family
Click here to find more adoption friendly versions of these long held school projects.
You may also consider speaking with your social worker or attorney on educational materials you can provide to your child’s teachers and administrative staff.
Get involved in the classroom
Offer your personal experience and expertise and get involved in the classroom. Many teachers will have parents come in as a guest for story time. Offer your time and read an adoption related story. Check out some great ones here. Contribute to your child’s career day by asking your social worker or attorney to come in and talk about adoption and what they do to build beautiful families like your own!
Talk with other parents
Take time to introduce yourself to other parents in your child’s class. If and when you feel comfortable telling them your experience with adoption, be willing to tell them more about adoption in general and answer questions they may have. If the parents know and understand about adoption, it will glean a positive influence on their children.
When you’ve found other parents who are understanding to your family dynamic, try setting up play dates. Your child can make a new friend and you can have the peace of mind knowing the family will make sure both children are as comfortable as possible!
Paint a picture for other parents. They may be step parents, single parents, an interracial couple, have multiple religions in their family, or other non-traditional dynamics. Explain that adoption is just like their family. It’s “non-traditional,” but it’s just another way to build a wonderful family in a loving and happy home.
Schools are often looking for volunteer and community service opportunities for students, their families, and faculty. Suggest some local events and fundraisers through adoption agencies like the Adoptions From The Heart Paper Heart Project, or Find Her Footing 5K , which includes a kids dash!
You may also want to talk to your child’s teacher about celebrating your little one’s adoption day at school, similar to a birthday. Offer to come in and explain to the class what an adoption day is and bring in a special treat.
Understanding and celebrating others begins with you and your child. Encourage your child to be welcoming to all of their classmates and open to all different types of people, just as they hope their classmates will accept them.
No matter what steps you may take to help your child with back to school, the most important aspect is their ability to learn and grow. Make sure to check in with your little one and ask about their day and what they learned. School can be tough for any child. Parenting a child having school difficulties isn’t easy either. Reach out to your agency and social worker for more resources and specific thoughts on how to help your child thrive in school.