Friday, August 5, 2016


School starts in several weeks and you may already be wondering how adoption may play out in your child's new classroom. Will peers make comments or ask questions?  Will teachers or administrators blame any academic or behavioral issues on adoption? While you are deciding how and when to share the adoption with the school, you need to prepare your child on how to interact with peers.

Start a conversation with your child by saying that you have been thinking about the new school year. State any facts you know about the school (new or old), teachers and classmates. Ask your child what they are looking forward to or concerned about. Discuss all of it. If they don't mention adoption, ask what they will say if a peer or teacher asks.

Are they comfortable talking about adoption? Do they have the vocabulary they need? If they need assistance, you can help prepare them by practicing conversations that answer specific questions, provide  generic information or give  them permission to ignore or refuse to answer as well as  when to ask for an adult to intervene (whether you or a teacher)..

Answering a specific question:
I have 2 mothers, my birthmother lives in ____.
I don't remember ____, I was very young when I came here.
____ is my real mother, ____ gave birth to me.
I have 2 dads, but ___________ is my birthmother.

Create a generic teaching moment:

Lots of children are adopted every year.
When a parent can't care for a child, luckily another adult can step in and become their mommy or daddy.
My brother and sister are just like yours - we get along and other times, we fight.

Say they won't answer (It's private) or Pretend they didn't hear it:
I don't feel like talking about that.
That's private information.
Why would you ask me that?

Another thing to be aware of is classroom curriculum. As early as pre-school, children are doing family trees and line lines indicating growth. By elementary school, there are additional assignments on family composition and various cultures

Junior high and high school cover genetics and family building. Homework may also include readings with family themes, including various blended families.

Some children are more sensitive to adoption themes than others. Knowing what is being addressed in the classroom, as well as conversations among peers, will enable you to help your child handle these as the year progresses.

Create a relationship with teachers, even asking to meet within weeks of the new academic year. Ask if the teacher is aware that your child is adopted and if they have had adopted children in the classroom before. What sort of issues have come up and how were they dealt with?  Explain how you want adoption to be considered in the context of your child's full development. Ask to be alerted if adoption comes up in the classroom or an upcoming assignment may pose an issue for your child. (i.e. photos needed at various ages and stages for a child adopted at an older age where they might not be available, decisions about who goes  on a family tree, etc.). 

As you talk to your child about their time in school, ask if adoption has come up at all. If yes, ask how they have dealt with it. If not, ask if they want to share it with peers or their teacher. If they do, repeat the hypothetical conversations and possible responses.

Your child spends at least 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, in a setting where you are trusting others to not only educate, but to supervise and protect them. The best way to do this is to make sure that everyone is prepared.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA from March 1992 to March 2015, was Head Writer for, a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series She is currectly a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York, where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL.