There are times during the school year when there are assignments that can be little trickier for an adopted child. Recently in the Adoptive Families Magazine there was an article that tackled six of those tricky assignments. We have experienced some of these assignments, though they take a little more thought it has opened up avenues of conversation in our home and with our child's friends at school.
The following is a reprint of three of those tricky topics:
Assignment: Bring in a baby picture. The photos are often posted anonymously and classmates are asked to guess who's who, or may be used in yearbooks or graduation presentations.
Grade level: Preschool to kindergarten, junior high and high school graduations.
Learning goal: To help students get to know one another, to salute graduates.
Why it's challenging: Children adopted at an older age may not have baby pictures; the identities of children who stand out because of race or physical differences are easy to guess.
Alternatives for teachers: have children bring in pictures from when they were "younger", or draw pictures of themselves as babies.
Approaches for parents: Let your child know that you wish you had photos, too, and say that your'e sure she was a beautiful baby. Encourage her to draw a picture of herself.
How one family handled it: "My son was asked to bring in a baby photo for his elementary school graduation. I wrote a letter to the teachers and included articles from AF. The team leader acknowledged that they'd just always done it this way. In future years, they'll ask for photos of the children 'at a younger age'.
Assignment: Draw a family tree - either as a literal tree, with branches, or in a diagram form - showing family relationships.
Grade level: Elementary school.
Learning goal: To illustrate family relationships
Why it's challenging: The format may not accomodate birth and adoptive relatives, or otherwise nontraditional family makeups.
Alternatives for teachers: Offer formats that show roots as well as branches; instead of a tree, have students create a family forest or a neighborhood of family houses.
Approaches for parents: Allow your child to choose which family or famlies to portray, or encourage him to design his own format.
Star of the Week
Assignment: During the child's turn as Star of the Week, create and present a poster with the child's story and family photos.
Grade level: Kindergarten to first grade.
Learning goals: To help students get to know one another; also serves as a leadership opportunity.
Why it's challenging: When our kids are placed in the spotlight, adoption often comes up, and they may not feel comfortables handling intrusive questions.
Alternatives for teachers: Instead of focusing on the child's past, let the Star of the Week talk about pets, current hobbies, and other elements of her life.
Approaches for parents: Role-play possible responses to questions in advance. Ask your child about accompanying her to school to give an adoption presentation.
Check out the Adoptive Families website at http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/ for more information.