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School-Based Anxiety and the Adopted Child

Holiday break is approaching, and 2020 will begin with a back-to-school transition. No matter where you’re at in the school year, school can be stressful for the entire family. Whether your child is starting at a new school or just starting a new year in general—school tends to create anxiety. Children who are adopted or who have recently found their forever homes may have that anxiety compounded by school assignments or a lack of understanding from their peers.

School is a powerful force in shaping who we become, and if children feel included in a positive way, it will help stabilize their academic career. There are multiple ways to ensure that your child is receiving positive inclusivity in their school setting. 

Communication is always important. Reach out to your child’s teacher to have an open and honest discussion about how they can help facilitate positive adoption language and knowledge. Understanding your family’s journey will help them communicate more effectively and ensure they’re sharing adoption truths, not myths. Offer some resources that have been helpful for your own family.

Prepare your child for tricky assignments. We all remember the “family tree” homework assignment—generally not an adoption-aware exercise. An adopted child’s journey is unique, and it doesn’t always come with a clear understanding of how to articulate their family tree. Give your child the freedom to explore their creativity and take this as an opportunity to decide how they want to shape their family tree. While a teacher may be understanding and aware of the challenges adopted children may face, their classmates may not have the same awareness. Guide your children with helpful narratives and answers to insensitive questions so they can feel confident in their voice and story, and maybe even help educate others who are ignorant of the adoption process.

There are so many resources parents can provide to teachers, or that educators can access themselves. These are a few we love:

  • The Cradle provides a comprehensive list of age/grade-appropriate books that highlight and normalize adoption in a language that promotes positivity
  • Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is applicable inside and outside the home. Harvard University did an excellent study on how all adults and caregivers can practice TIC
  • Keep communication open, aware, and safe. It is truly the key to making a child’s educational experience safe, integrative, and stimulating 

Your child’s educational experience will be an evolving journey for everyone. There is no playbook, which is why you get to write the rules for what works best in your family!