Explaining Adoption in the Classroom

AF readers share their tips and tricks for introducing adoption to your child's classmates.

How can you introduce adoption to your child's classmates?

Until young children are told otherwise, they may assume that being born to a mother and father is the only way for a family to form. Here are some presentations that parents have developed to introduce adoption to their child’s classmates, to head off nosy questions on the playground, and to plant the idea that all families are different—and all kinds of families are wonderful.

Questions and Answers

“When my daughter, Payton, was in first grade, I learned that the family tree assignment was coming up that year — and decided it was time for me to give a talk at school. I began by reading aloud from All About Adoption, by Marc Nemiroff and Jane Annunziata.

When I got to the page listing the things babies need, I stopped reading and asked the class to help me make our own list. As they responded that babies need toys, food, love, hugs, diapers, and a bed, I wrote their answers on the chalkboard. Then I said, ‘Adoption happens when the parents who give birth to a child realize they can’t provide everything on this list. So they make a hard choice, an adult choice, to find another home for the baby.’

After finishing the book, I let the kids ask questions. I was surprised by how thoughtful they were. One child wanted to know how I knew where to find Payton. I told him that Payton’s father and I had thought about adopting a child for a long time. When we were ready, we looked in the local phone book for the number of a children’s advocacy group, because we knew that it helped children in the foster system find forever homes.

When a child asked when and where we met Payton, I told her that a woman called a social worker brought Payton to our house when she was six weeks old. I described waiting and waiting, because the worker was late, and worrying that she’d never arrive. When another child wondered aloud, ‘So, Payton has another mother?’ I answered that Payton has a birth mom and a forever mom, and that I’m very lucky that I get to be her forever mom.

Payton chose to answer some of the questions herself. One of her classmates asked, ‘How does it feel to be adopted?’ I anxiously awaited the answer, and was relieved when Payton responded, ‘Great!’

I concluded by telling them that, if they ever had more questions about adoption, they could ask me when they saw me dropping off Payton at school.

Some adoptive parents I know were appalled when I described this talk. They say that it was a breach of my daughter’s privacy, but Payton is open about and quite proud of her story. I knew she had already begun talking about adoption with her friends — and was getting lots of questions. When I asked her how she’d feel about my giving a talk at school, she said, ‘Please help me explain adoption to my class.’ So that’s what I did.”
Paula, London, Ontario, Canada

Teachable Moments

“I am a first- and second-grade teacher. While I was in the process of adopting my little girl from China, I made a PowerPoint presentation to teach my students about the country’s people, food, clothing, schools, and geography. This led to a discussion about how we are all the same in some ways, and different in others.

For the next few months, I sprinkled several adoption picture books into the regular storytime mix. Two of my classes’ favorites were I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, by Rose Lewis, and I Don’t Have Your Eyes, by Carrie Kitze.

I also sent the children home with the some handouts from the AF website, to help families continue the discussion at home. Several parents wrote back asking if they could share their adoption stories with the class, too! It was a bonding time for everyone.”
—Heidi, Bonney Lake, Washington

Casual Storytime

“I haven’t yet given a formal presentation, but I accompanied my five-year-old to school one day and read the class two age-appropriate books — Keiko Kasza’s A Mother for Choco and Todd Parr’s It’s Okay to Be Different. We then shared our adoption story, using the simple language we use when we tell it to each other. We concluded with a little poem we made up: ‘I picked you and you picked me; and we became a happy family.’ Easy and sweet.”
Stacey, Houston


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