By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor
As an adoptive parent, you are the expert on adoption. Your child's teacher would welcome a chance for her class (and herself) to learn more about it. Why not propose to come to school and give a presentation to your child's class?
Good reasons to give a talk about adoption:
To present adoption in a positive way, before the children have learned negative ideas and negative language about adoption, and to counteract any stereotyped ideas. (See Teaching the language of adoption.)
To teach positive ideas about your child's culture/racial heritage (and erase negative ones) by celebrating that culture.
To respond to a negative incident which has happened.
A classroom presentation may provide a needed positive support for a child who may be confused or embarrassed about being adopted or feeling different.
Be sure your child is comfortable with the idea. Young kids like to be the centre of attention; older children may not.
Make the content appropriate for the cognitive and social level of the children. Kindergarten presentations need to focus on "adoption as a way to belong to a family", not on the process involved or biological reproduction. Consult with the teacher on the content.
Your presentation could show adoption as an example of diversity among families and tie it in with other concepts the children may have received in presentations about racism or sexism.
Students and teachers won't know much about adoption. Rehearse your answers to uninformed questions like, "Why did his mommy give him away?" (You will also be teaching your child how to appropriately respond.)
Keep it brief, for children's short attention spansand teachers short of time.
What to do
Prepare by getting books from the public library and consulting support groups.
Talk about how families are formed, and about how children come to be adopted: infant placement, older child through Social Services, international adoption.
Keep it simplejust a few main ideas. You will be successful if preschoolers come away thinking adoption is neat, and if third graders understand adoption is common and one of the ways to build a family.
Celebrate your child's culture/racial heritage by bringing traditional clothing, books or foods from home. Have your child help you choose them.
Music, food and games make it fun and are sure to capture attention and enhance learning.
Take resources you can leave behind, such as printouts of Parent's School Guide, Teacher's School Guide and adoption bibliographies. There is one more thing you can leave behind: a positive impression. You have helped the school and your child's peer group view your child's adoption, and cultural and racial heritage, positively.
PARENTS SCHOOL GUIDE
ChallengesThe 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 disabilitiesWhat 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 needsAccept 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, www.familyhelper.net" ________________________________________
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.