Starting school and each new school year can be an exciting new experience for you and your children. It can stir up a multitude of emotions like anxiety, fear, happiness and more. As you prepare your kids for their first day, you might be faced with this question: should I tell my child’s teacher about their adoption?
Before deciding what’s best for your children, there are many aspects to consider. Ultimately, the decision depends on your family dynamic and situation, which is unique to everyone.
Evaluating Your Reasons and Options
Since teachers are your child’s central figure of authority at school, they will have major influence over how the classroom operates. By choosing to discuss adoption with your child’s teacher, adoptive parents can remind teachers to be sensitive to all family types and send positive messages about how families can be formed in many different ways. This empowers teachers to confidently handle questions about adoption or conflicts that arise, in a positive and inclusive way. This can instill a positive outlook on adoption for both the adoptee and other children in the classroom. Although, not everyone understands that adoptions can be very different, so parents may want to provide some details about their specific adoption story.
Another reason some parents choose to disclose is because they want to ensure classroom activities are inclusive to adopted children. There are some common projects or units that may be difficult for adopted children to complete. For example, projects that involve creating a family tree, studying hereditary traits for DNA units, or creating a timeline of your life with stories and pictures from early childhood, may create challenges for an adopted child. The teacher may want to adjust the lesson or project requirements slightly, so that an adopted child doesn’t feel excluded or ashamed of being adopted and perhaps not having all of these answers.
One mother describes a timeline project her children worked on where she realized “this would affect a family that adopted their child at an older age and may not have pictures.”
While some choose to explain the story, others may feel perfectly comfortable without speaking to their child’s teachers. In some cases, this may be because a child is comfortable openly sharing the adoption story themselves and navigating any questions that arise. In other cases, adoptive parents may look nothing like their adopted child and therefore, do not feel the need to state the obvious or bring up the specific circumstances. There are a number of reasons why an adoptive parent prefers not to mention the adoption to the teacher, one adoptive says she doesn’t want her child to receive special treatment or pity.
One popular route parents take is actually letting the adopted child determine whether he or she would like to share the adoption story with the teacher. Especially in recent years with adoption becoming more talked-about and less stigmatized, many believe that their child is confident and proud enough about their background to know when it’s appropriate to explain their story and what details to share. In this adoptive mother’s case, she even says, “My daughter… was always comfortable with being adopted, so, more often than not, she was the one who told the teacher.” Furthermore, some parents have chosen to let their adoptee decide whether to share the adoption story simply because they feel, at the end of the day, it’s the child’s life and it will affect them the most.
Assessing the Situation
By analyzing the nature and needs of your child, the community, the classroom, and the teacher, you will be able to gauge how relevant and necessary giving your child’s teacher the ‘adoption talk’ is. You may want to consider the following questions:
- Is the community generally accepting of families of diverse backgrounds?
- Will there be projects or lessons about families? How will they be handled?
- Does your child have special needs that must be accommodated?
- Will other children ask questions?
- Does your child like to share their story? Will there be triggers for your child if you bring it up?
- Are you in an open relationship with the birth family or birth mother? Will she be taking a part in your child’s life and the decision?
All these factors, and perhaps more depending on your specific adoption situation, are important to consider when deciding if it is necessary or beneficial to speak to your child’s teacher about adoption.
Tips for Talking to the Teacher
Should you choose to tell the teacher about your child’s adoption, the amount of information you want to disclose is up to you. Some parents simply state their child is adopted and leave it at that. Others feel compelled to provide details explaining why their child behaves a certain way and how to respond. Take this mother’s reasoning for example, “I have found it helpful for the teacher to be able to understand some behaviors and also to support my child if she gets picked on or has meltdowns for no apparent reason.”
How you communicate sets a precedent for how the teacher will likely treat adoption and situations that arise with your child. For teachers who are not very familiar with the world of adoption, offering your own knowledge as a resource may be extremely helpful and very welcome guidance. If you’re concerned about your child’s peers or questions and conflicts that may arise, some adoptive parents even offer the teacher a list of common questions that may come up and answers that use positive adoption language.
Ultimately, choosing whether or not to disclose the adoption to your child’s teacher should be based on the best interests of your child and their education. In the words of one adoptive mother, “You have a special responsibility in being the “keeper of your child’s story,” until he or she is old enough to decide for themselves what to share.”
If you would like more information or advice about the process, you can contact us at 800-637-7999.