Ask AF: Adoption Stigma at School

One family asked how to deal with adoption stigma, when kids won't play with their daughter at school. Members of AdoptiveFamiliesCircle respond.

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Q: My daughter took a picture of her birth father to school. She proudly showed it and, when asked where he was, said “prison.” Since then, her best friend’s mother has forbid her daughter from playing with her. My daughter’s grades have slipped and she cries at recess. We do have her in therapy.

Members of adoptivefamiliescircle.com respond:

“A child should never be blamed for the actions of the father. I believe that the school counselor has an obligation to have a discussion with the class about that without your daughter present—I say this as a counselor.”

“It’s not your child’s problem, it’s the adults’, and they have behaved abominably. I would help your daughter to focus less on her father’s ‘bad choices’ and more on her feelings. She is hurting, and not talking isn’t the solution.”

“Set up a meeting at school with the other parent and child, the teacher, your child, a psychologist or advocate, and yourself. I would feel sad and angry myself, but still suggest you try to see the other mom’s viewpoint. Not because I approve, but just to humanize her. In all likelihood she is clueless about adoption.”

“Your daughter needs to understand that her birth father is not a bad person, but he made bad decisions. And, while she should never be ashamed of her story, she does need to learn to be careful about what she tells people to maintain her privacy. If asked about her birth father, she can just say something like ‘he’s not around right now’ or, point-blank, ‘it’s personal.’ ”

“You might want to talk about adoption in the classroom. There are tons of great kids’ books you can read to keep it general, and not about your daughter.”

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