What to share with a teacher about your child is an issue every parent faces with school-aged children. And it is an issue that is often vehemently debated in adoption circles. Just how much, if anything, does a teacher need to know about your child’s personal story? And at what point is it important to give them this information?
While you don’t want your child’s teacher to have preconceived notions about your child because he or she was adopted, teachers can also be great allies in identifying whether issues are adoption-related or not.
So what is a parent to do?
While every situation is different, in my experiences it is always helpful to use the “THINK’ method as a jumping-off point.
T – Is it TRUE?
Well of course, if you are reading this, it is probably true that your child was adopted. When considering this point, look at what the current impact of being adopted has on your child.
Do you have a very open adoption and the child talks openly about being adopted? If they do, then it is likely part of their daily “truth” and something they consider important (aka something the teacher should know).
There is nothing wrong with asking your child if they want their teacher to know they are adopted. Kids usually know what they do and don’t want shared about themselves from a young age. And young children especially are more inclined to share their story.
When my son was in Kindergarten he wanted me to tell anyone and everyone that he was adopted. It was his truth and he was proud of it. By 2nd grade he was far more selective about who he wanted to know about that part of his life, and while I chose to tell his teacher, I did so in private and only shared what he was comfortable with.
H – Is it Helpful?
Is knowing your child was adopted going to be helpful to their teacher or your child?
For example, 3rd grade is a very common age for students to have a “Family Tree” project—an assignment that makes most adoptive parents groan out of concern for how best to handle this topic. If your child’s teacher is aware that he is adopted, she may be able to better help your child and be sensitive to problems that may arise with this project.
But what if your child has an adoption-related issue like RAD? Is it helpful for the teacher to know about your problems at home or will they lump your child into the “bad kid” category? There is no right or wrong answer. Go with your gut. Would it help YOUR child for the teacher to know? Share what you think is helpful. Not what some “expert” in the blogging world thinks.
I – Is it Inspring?
It isn’t your child’s job to inspire anyone, including teachers, to learn more about adoption. But as adoptive parents, we often find ourselves advocating positive adoption language and disseminating information about adoption-related issues.
If you are choosing to tell your child’s teacher any part of their history, consider supplying them with some resources to learn more and hopefully better understand the unique issues that face all adopted children. A quick Google search will yield endless suggestions for raising adoption awareness in the classroom and many, many personal blogs from parents about their experiences.
N – Is it Necessary?
Does your child’s adoption story affect them in school therefore making it necessary for the teacher to be aware of it? In our situation, we have chosen to share this information with our son’s teacher. When he was younger we shared it because he has many siblings and would proudly talk about all his brothers and sister. He would tell anyone who would listen about his 2 moms and 2 dads. In fact, his favorite t-shirt was one that said “My Moms are Awesome.” Because that led to a lot of confusion, and teachers and students thinking he was making up stories, sharing his past was beneficial to him.
As he has gotten older, we have continued to share the fact that he was adopted with his teacher. It is up to him to share his story with his friends, but we have personally found it very helpful for his teachers to know so they can help us identify issues. After a visit with his family, we tend to see more negative-attention seeking behavior. Because his teacher is aware of this, she has been able to adapt to his needs and help him appropriately express himself instead of just getting in trouble.
Every situation and teacher is different. What is necessary for one child’s teacher to know may be different for another.
K – Is it Kind?
What does being kind have to do with telling your child’s teacher their personal history? No parent wants their children to be treated differently because they were adopted. Nor do we want to share this information as means to manipulate our kids teachers so that they give our children leeway for their actions. But one of the most important jobs of a teacher is to help children become the best people they can be. Which means kids need to learn to be kind, not just to others but also to themselves. And let’s face it, adopted kids, more so than other kids, question their self-worth. If sharing her story, or even parts of it, can help a teacher understand your child, she may be better able to help them be kind to themselves when facing her own personal demons.
In summary, there is no one definitive answer on if or when you should share your child’s personal adoption story. As a parent, it is your job to share as you see necessary. Do what you feel is right, not what is right for someone else. But always THINK before you speak.