Ask AF: Would Calling Day Care Workers "Auntie" Confuse an Adopted Child?

A parent solicits opinions about a day care that encourages the children to call the employees "Auntie" and the other children "brothers and sisters."

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Q: We have been looking at day cares in our area. One family day care seems perfect—except for one thing. They encourage the kids to call the staff ‘Auntie __’ as opposed to ‘Miss __’ and to refer to the other kids as ‘brothers and sisters.’ I understand about wanting to encourage closeness, but I’m worried about helping our future kiddo understand what family really means.

Members of adoptivefamiliescircle.com respond:

“I don’t think I would want my child calling the woman at her day care ‘Aunt’ because, to me, that is a title for people like my sisters and best friends. It’s nothing to do with adoption, but about reserving titles like that for people who are a special part of her life. As for calling the other kids ‘brothers and sisters,’ honestly, I just think that’s strange and would be confusing for any child. I wouldn’t expect her to call her best friends her sisters or brothers.”

“I did call my in-laws ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ while they were on this earth, and my best friends are called ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ by my kids, but I would not accept that at a day care. My adoption was a kinship adoption, so there is already enough relationship confusion. I’d keep looking.”

“I’d tell them how much you love all the things about them that you do, but that you have some real concerns about this kind of naming. You can explain that it is confusing and could actually be dangerous for a child to have unclear boundaries and consider everyone there the same as family, when they are not. If they don’t get it, I’d look elsewhere.”

“I’m guessing they wouldn’t make your child call them “Aunt,” “brother,” and “sister.” However, if she went there and didn’t, but everyone else was calling each other these names, that could also be confusing for a child. Good luck with finding a day care provider you love.”

“I personally think it’s kind of weird, but if you did choose that day care, I think you can feel confident that a child adopted at a young age would grow up knowing you as his/her family, and would understand that the day care crew isn’t really family. An older child from abroad or foster care could be a more difficult scenario, however, with more potential for confusion and bonding issues.”

“Just a different perspective, for what it is worth. Being of Mexican descent, I grew up with many aunts and uncles who were not actually related. This is very common in Hispanic culture, and other some others. I agree that the brother and sister thing is a bit much, but the aunt/uncle thing would not make me overly concerned. Of course, you must decide what you are comfortable with.”

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