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Should I Tell Her Teacher?

I haven't decided not to tell my daughter's preschool that she was adopted, but, so far, I haven't told.

by Barbara Herel

My daughter began preschool recently, and I've not told her teachers that she’s adopted. As I weigh the decision of whether to tell, these are the questions and thoughts rattling around in my head:

Is "The Talk" relevant? Beth is two -- still very young. My husband, Tony, and I faithfully recite the story of our domestic adoption to her, but the hot topics during the two hours she spends at school, two days a week, will more likely be sharing toys, snack time, and poop.

Could it be held against her? My girlfriend, a former teacher and an adoptive mom, thinks so. Her experience is that teachers talk. Even if the talk is not negative, she worries that our children will be forever branded The Adopted Ones, even if they are also Phenomenal Artists or Gymnastical Geniuses. And what if Beth whacks one of her classmates in the head? Will her teachers think, "It's just her age," or "It's a behavioral problem" ("She's adopted, you know")? I want to keep any adoption bias at bay for as long as I can.

Is this more about me? I'll be honest: I'm still figuring out how to discuss (or not discuss, or partially discuss) Beth's adoption. Like every parent who has adopted, I've been astonished and angered by thoughtless comments from friends and strangers. I know that once I say, "We adopted her," I'm opening myself up to questions, comments, and judgments, some welcome and some not.

The phrase "know your audience" comes to mind, and reading your audience takes time and practice. I think it will feel more natural to say that we adopted Beth after I get to know her teachers better.

I see that "family" is the theme slated for November in the preschool curriculum. At least that gives me a little time to build my trust with the teachers, solicit some more advice, and decide what to do.

For now, I'll stick to my go-to answer when I am asked, "Where'd she get the blonde hair?" "Runs in the family."

Barbara Herel writes the Improv Mom blog on She adopted her daughter domestically.

Parent-to-Parent: Teacher Talks

Members of and the AF Facebook page debated whether and when to tell your child's teacher about her adoption. Here's what some of you said:

  • "My husband and I decided to explain open adoption to our child's kindergarten teacher. We didn't want our daughter to start talking about her 'brothers' (bio half-siblings) in class and confuse the teacher (who knows that our daughter has only one brother in our family). We explained our family's story and discussed positive adoption language. Most important, we allowed the teacher to ask us questions at the end of the meeting. It was very productive." -- Kiersa

  • "I have always known I was adopted and have always been open about it. Now I’m an adoptive mom. My son's day care knows and I don't think any teacher there has a bias or has treated him differently because of it. If my child were being treated differently, for any reason, I would speak with the head of the day care or school and let them know. I think honesty is the best policy when it comes to adoption. It is something to be proud of." -- Hillary Braveman Duval

  • "I would recommend informing the teacher only if warranted. I have always been open with my child about being adopted. This is a fact of life and we celebrate it. However, it's weird to make a big deal about it. It's the child's information. Let him choose when to share. My child is very popular, smart, and well adjusted. He's always been confident in sharing his story." -- Rhonda Garland McDaniel

  • "I am both an adoptive mother and a preschool teacher. I encourage the parents of my students to share anything that may help me teach them better. If your child might come to school and talk about being adopted, it helps the teacher to know beforehand, so she isn't taken by surprise. I wouldn't make a big deal about it, but I would encourage the teacher to use it as a teaching point (especially when talking about 'families')." -- Vicki Slatton Vanderveen

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