By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor

What we often forget is that children want to be like other kids, not different. Holly Van Gulden and Lisa Bartels-Rabb explain this in their article "Birds of a Feather?" in the January/February 1997 Adoptive Families.

By age six, if not earlier, children are aware they are not the same ethnicity or race as their playmates or adoptive family. When children in early primary school are reluctant to hang around with others who share their differences there are usually two factors at work: poor self-esteem about the difference, and a desire to be like other children.

Social dynamics in the playground

A single child who is different can still mix in with the crowd and be included in the group. When two with similar differences are together the group still sees them as approachable, but if three or more with a similar difference gather together the majority will rarely join them or make an effort to include them. This is why sometimes children in the minority group may chose not to hang around with others in the minority group—they don't want to be isolated from the larger group. They do this even though they may have high self-esteem (they feel good about themselves and good about the way they are different from other kids).

How to help—celebrate sameness and differences

• Comment regularly on traits and interests shared within your family to help reinforce your child's sense of belonging in your family. And talk about how each family member is unique.

• If you celebrate your child's ethnic heritage because it's unique, also celebrate your own heritage.

• Let your child chose her own friends.

• Seek out settings where your child will be with others who have the same differences, but don't push her into relationships because of similarities.

• Socialize with other adoptive families.

• If appropriate attend a support group for your child.



The challenge of school for the adoptee
School issues your child will face
Help your child deal with racism
When birds don't flock together
Should you tell the teacher?
You can give an adoption talk
Language development is key

Learning disabilities

What are learning disabilities?
Detect learning disabilities early
Cope with your child's LD
Brodzinsky on learning disabilities
Do adoptees need special ed classes?
Are LDs inherited?

Special needs

Accept your child's special needs
FAS: Friendly school environments
Helping students with FAS
ADHD and the school system
Manage your ADHD child in school
Strategy for the parent advocate
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper," ________________________________________
First published in Family Helper No. 45, "Adoption Goes To School", ISBN 0-9733470-4-X. Adapted in part from Post-adoption Helper No. 7, "Adoptive Parents' Guide to Your Child in Primary School", edited by Jennifer Smart.