My baby will start pre-K in the fall (how in the world is this possible?), and it’s got me thinking again about adoption stories and school. As a teacher and an adoptive mom, I have the advantage of thinking about this from two different perspectives. So, how much of your child’s adoption story should you tell his teachers? The answer is a great big “It depends.” Here are a few considerations:
The Age and Opinion of the Child
In general, you will likely share more with your child’s teacher when the child is young. As she grows, it will be important that she understands that her adoption story is hers to share when and how she chooses. Once my daughter hit first grade, I talked with her at the beginning of the year about whether she wanted me to tell her teacher anything about her adoption story—and I have always respected her wishes on this. Though the precise age at which you feel your child has the ability to make this decision may vary, it’s important to solicit her input when it becomes developmentally appropriate.
In some situations, it will be important to communicate parts of your child’s story that impact his health or educational well-being at school. Under these circumstances, consider sharing facts, diagnoses, and required accommodations without elaborating much on the specific details of your child’s adoption story.
Children who experienced early trauma may (or may not) display a variety of unexpected behaviors at school. I understand the parental instinct to give a teacher a “heads up” about what to expect, but as a teacher I’ve also seen the power of building positive relationships and expecting the best from each student—including students who exhibit challenging behavior. Unless your child has behavioral needs requiring services beyond the classroom, it’s likely that his teacher doesn’t need any more specific information about why he may engage in a particular behavior. If the teacher reaches out to you for suggestions, you might also point her to resources like this that provide information without telling the specifics of your child’s story.
As you may have guessed from my suggestions so far, I think it’s always best to err on the side of sharing less personal information rather than more. Teachers are professionals and are trained to work with students from a variety of backgrounds with a vast array of social, emotional, and academic strengths and needs. It’s likely that your child’s teacher will be able to forge a positive relationship and help her achieve academic success without knowing much of her adoption story at all. And I am a firm believer that my children’s stories belong to them alone, and it is my job to respect that privacy as much as possible.
Adoptive parents, do you agree? How much of your kids’ stories to you share with teachers? How is that working for you?