10 Back to School Tips for Adoptive Parents

Green apple on stack of red books.

  1. Help your child feel prepared: Discuss issues that may arise or questions they may receive from classmates and how to respond. Tour the school so they feel comfortable in a new environment. Have your child meet their teachers/ principal. Talk about the rules and expectations of your child’s school.
  2. Lunchtime: Bring your child to the grocery store to pick out foods that they like. If they buy their lunch, make sure lunch money is in a safe place.
  3. Transportation: Make sure your child knows their bus number. Discuss bus rules and talk with your child about only leaving school with a parent or designated adults. Have a safety plan in place.
  4. Iron out a schedule: Establish your routine before school starts. Consider using a large family calendar to keep track of everyone’s schedules.
  5. Resources: Talk to your child’s teachers about special needs accommodations, ESL, IEP, and/or tutoring programs. Join an adoptive parent support group or attend parent workshops (link to http://www.modernfamilycenter.org/adoption-support/).
  6. Social skills: Help your child practice appropriate social responses, conversations, and understanding appropriate physical boundaries. Set up short, structured play dates. Reach out to classmates before school starts.
  7. Social issues: Listen actively to your child and encourage positive attitudes. If bullying at school is involved, insist that it be appropriately addressed by the school.
  8. Open the adoption dialogue: If you want it known that your child is adopted, inform new teachers and provide them with any information about adoption you feel they should know. Bring a book to share about adoption with the class. Talk to your child about questions they might be asked and how they can answer them.
  9. Talk about educational goals: Empower your child to be a part of their own educational process. Support your child through highs, lows, and plateaus in learning. Be realistic with your expectations of both your child and their teacher.
  10. Don’t forget to breathe! Practice taking deep breaths with your child so that they know how to help themselves calm down if they get stressed.

Adoption, Genetics and Schools

Teaching Genetics in an Adoptive World was the topic of Lisa Belkin’s recent New York Times Motherlode blog.  “A staple of elementary-school science classes across the country,” it is an assignment dreaded by adoptive parents who do not want their child to feel left out or different.  Many of the comments from readers expressed the feeling that parents should step in and provide education to the schools both about the problem and possible solutions.  A New York City reader posted that Spence-Chapin had been invited to her child’s school and given all the teachers training.

For over fifteen years, Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Resource Center has sought to inform and support educators by offering workshops specifically for schools.  Spring is the time schools schedule staff training for the next academic year, so you might want to contact your child’s school and let them know about the training Spence-Chapin offers.

Adoption Awareness for Educators
Teachers are often faced with students’ curiosity about adoption, dealing with a child’s negative comments about adoption and classroom assignments that involve genealogy.  Sometimes these situations can confuse, alienate or even hurt an adopted child.  This training provides teachers with the language of adoption and the tools to intervene in classroom, lunch room and recess situations.

Clinical Issues in Adoption
Here, the focus is on how grief, loss, identity, control and attachment issues may surface in the lives of adoptees.  The workshop explains the adverse effects on test taking and learning situations these issues may have for adopted students if they become overwhelming.  It also presents the learning issues and delays common to children adopted from Institutions and deprived early environments.  It is designed for guidance counselors, school psychologists and school-based support teams.

Adoption and Schools
This seminar is for adoptive parents, and focuses on how and when to approach schools regarding their adopted child.  It offers guidance on how to work with teachers as part of a team, and how to advocate for their child.

Spence-Chapin social workers are available to present during the day and in the evenings.  For further information about our complete range of workshops, visit www.spence-chapin.org. To schedule a training for educators, please contact Rebecca Braun-Slife at 212-360-0213 or rbraun@spence-chapin.org.