Adoption can be a long process from start to finish, no matter how you go about it. Sometimes an adoption that is started in infancy isn’t finalized until preschool, and sometimes you don’t meet your precious child until they are already in the 5th grade. At some point, even years after a newborn adoption, questions start to arise. Then, before you know it, your child’s friends have questions about adoption and their teachers can be wary of how to approach the topic without input from you. How do we navigate this personal topic with our children and their school? How can we prepare?
First of all, be proactive about adoption! Decide ahead of time how your family and child is going to handle this topic. Are you an open book? Do you want to keep things personal and not discuss the details? Whatever you decide, decide it ahead of time. Realize that adoption looks and feels different to each family and that no two families may handle it the same way–and that’s okay! Make sure to let your child’s school know which path you prefer to take before your child or their school district becomes uncertain and makes things uncomfortable. Don’t hesitate to spell it out either. Clear expectations or boundaries put everyone at ease. They know what they can or cannot say or do, and your child won’t have to take on the role of middle-man.
Also, whether or not you want to keep your personal life private or not, use this opportunity to educate others at the school. Does their library offer books on the topic? Chances are you researched adoption long and hard as the process went on, so share that knowledge! Give ideas of some favorite books for both adults and children that the library may want to invest in. Perhaps you have a subscription to a favorite adoption magazine that you could offer to donate to the school library? Or get completely involved and offer to read to your (younger child’s) classroom as a guest one day using your favorite book on the topic of adoption.
Sometimes it’s good to recognize the obvious and call it out before your child’s friends do. For example, our children’s last names changed with the adoption in the middle of the school year. Rather than pretend that it didn’t happen we celebrated it! We sent cupcakes and balloons and invited classmates to a party at our house. Of course, this brought with it TONS of questions, but I highly suspect these questions would’ve surfaced eventually anyway. This became a quick blast of questions and before the novelty wore off and things settled right back down. It was a personal choice to take on the adoption like we did but I felt it was better than all the shadowy questions and whispers–people felt more comfortable with the topic because we were. And, to be honest it made it easier to catch the inappropriate or uncomfortable questions right away and let others know when it was out of line.
You could take the focus off of your particular adoption altogether and just try to see if your school would be interested in doing something for National Adoption Month. Maybe just bringing awareness helps the subject not seem so daunting to discuss. Depending on how far you want to take things, perhaps you could set up some type of clothing or toy drive for foster care kids waiting for adoption. Lots of local resources should be available with a simple search online and nearly all would gladly welcome the thoughts and gifts.
Adoption is a personal issue but it doesn’t have to be a quiet one. Adoption can be loud, colorful, creative, and HAPPY. Your local school is just another member of the village it takes to raise your child. They will be supportive no matter which path is right for you, just make sure you let them know which path that is!