Back to School Tips for Adopted Children


Have you ever been at a job interview or social event when someone asks you, “What’s your story?” Maybe the question takes a different form: “Tell me about yourself.” “What do you do?” “Where are you from?” Daunting, isn’t it? At least for those of us who aren’t asked that question very often or don’t have a brief narrative at the ready. Even if your background is staggeringly conventional; loving parents, good schools, lots of friends, state college, rewarding career, etc., the question would probably still deliver a bit of a jolt. Where do you start? What do you tell? What do you leave out?





Now imagine you are an adopted child. You (presumably) haven’t been interviewing for jobs yet, haven’t developed an adult’s social navigation system, and you’re sitting in a classroom full of kids when the teacher asks you, “What’s your story?” Though it’s unlikely to be put that directly, it is common for schools to assign various “heritage projects” to exercise children’s research skills and to get them to know each other. Especially in American schools, where there are so many different “stories” for kids to tell about themselves, these projects are salutary and offer great opportunities for self-expression. For adopted children, such assignments may cause confusion and anxiety over the very same questions the hypothetical “conventional” adult might normally face, but it doesn’t have to be that way.





Only you can assess your adopted child’s comfort level in this scenario. If there is any undue tension or negativity regarding origins, disarm them with preparation and by showing them that their story is as unique and interesting as anyone else’s. Use the following guidelines to help your adopted child see these heritage or family tree projects as something positive and affirming using the following guidelines—because that’s exactly what it is.


First, consider a preemptive conversation with your adopted child’s teacher about any planned assignments that explore biographical data or family history. This will allow you time to prepare what to say or write with your child. Some parents argue that briefing the teacher about the child’s adopted status may “poison the well.” Here is a useful pro/con article to help you decide if it’s even an issue you want to bring up.


“In many cases, when children are given enough flexibility, they can come up with their own creative and insightful ways of completing an assignment so they satisfy the teacher while maintaining a sense of privacy and control.” Lois Melina, Raising Adopted Children.


“I don't want to provide a teacher with a label to use to dismiss various aspects of [my son's] personality or behavior.” Curt Rice, Fathers and Son .



If this mom’s story resonates with you, then her experience with approaching her child’s teachers is a must-read. The decision whether to meet with your adopted child’s teacher or administrator may hinge on what your child reports to you regarding their mood. Listen carefully for clues that may indicate anxiety or sadness as a result of their adoptive status.






Finally, keep in mind these dos and don’ts if and when you do decide to call a meeting with the teacher. Complementing this advice is this exhaustive list of adoption resources for teachers to draw from in accommodating adopted children into their lesson plans. As with any other assignment, a prepared child is a confident child. There is a wealth of information should you need to give them the power to tell their story their own way without fear or confusion.


 Check out these links for additional information


10 Back to School Tips for Adopted Children


Back to School with Your Adopted Child


Back to School Lessons Learned in the Classroom


10 Back to School Tips for Adopted Children