I personally prefer being upfront with adoption information rather than dealing with awkward questions from friends or family who have genuine interest in adoption, but may not ask them in the most politically correct way. Last year I spoke to Ilan’s Grade R class about adoption (see post here) and felt that it was time to build on this conversation with the boys again, especially considering that Ilan is in a new class of boys this year.
Ilan’s teacher was very receptive to the idea and volunteered to facilitate the adoption chat on Ilan’s adoption day based on a few suggestions that I’d given her. So I sent Ilan to school in the week of his adoption day armed with some cupcakes, two adoption themed books and his baby photo album – he was so excited. We also felt that it would be a good idea to email the boys’ parents and let them know what was being discussed at school so that they could be prepared for any questions that might crop up at home.
I shared my experience of talking adoption in the classroom at a recent Arise Adoption workshop on ‘Being School Savvy’ and was encouraged to share it here too in case others might like to do the same for their kids. Here’s the Adoption Chat info that I put together for the teacher plus a copy of the email that we sent out to the parents on the same day.
Adoption Chat suggestions for the teacher
- List of famous people adopted – Nelson Mandela was adopted by the chief when his dad passed away, Superman
- Read book – Families, families, families (& possibly God found us you if there’s time)
- Points to mention after book:
⎯ Ilan was adopted (not ‘is adopted’}
⎯ Ilan has two sets of real parents – his first parents and us, his forever
parents. His first parents couldn’t look after him for grown-up reasons
and so they asked a social worker to find him a forever family.
⎯ We’re his real forever parents. Six years ago we went to court and a judge said that Ilan is officially part of our family. Ilan shows a copy of his birth certificate.
- What do real parents do? Make a list of things parents do to care for a baby and you can say that we did all of those things for Ilan too which means we’re his real parents and we’re a real family. Ilan shows a baby pic and family photo.
- Please end by saying “adoption is both happy and sad – these feelings are ok. “Today Ilan feels happy and wants to celebrate his adoption day by sharing his story and giving you a treat. If you have any questions about adoption you can ask Ilan at another time and he can choose if he wants to answer you.”
Email to parents
Dear Parents –
Today <Insert Teacher’s name> is helping Ilan celebrate his adoption day with his classmates because we’ve been a family for just over six years now and also because it’s a great opportunity to kick-start an important conversation.
<Insert Teacher’s name> is going to read the boys a book about different types of families and will speak about how not all families look the same and that it’s okay to be different. Ilan will have the chance to show the class his birth certificate and some baby photos.
If you child mentions the adoption chat at home, please be open to continuing the conversation. Here are a few age appropriate guidelines in positive adoption language:
- Love makes a family and we don’t all need to look the same to be a family.
- “Ilan has two sets of parents – his first parents and his forever parents, us. His first parents weren’t able to look after him for grown up reasons and so they asked a Social Worker to place him in a forever family, ours.” (He was ‘placed for adoption’ not ‘given up)
- We’re Ilan’s real parents and do all the things that real parents do.
- Ilan’s adoption story is his to share and from day to day his feelings about adoption may change. Right now, he’s happy to celebrate his adoption but some days it may make him feel sad and it’s ok for him to feel this range of emotions.
- We’re so happy to talk adoption but please avoid asking us direct questions about the circumstances surrounding Ilan’s adoption because we’ll need to tell you in a polite way that his story is not for us to share.
- Please don’t compare Ilan’s adoption to adopting a pet.
- Ilan isn’t lucky to be adopted by us – there’s nothing lucky about it for him because although he gained a family in us, he’s lost contact with his birth parents. We’re lucky to have him in our family though.
- Ilan is our ‘own’ child – although he is adopted and not our biological child
The reality is that Ilan is a young black Zulu boy growing up with white parents and it’s our job to be open to talking about race and adoption and we need your help to make sure that these topics never become taboo.
Thank you for taking the time to read this,
Julie & Ryan & Ilan Kynaston
*I’m sure that we didn’t cover this topic perfectly, but this is my best attempt based on reading many articles and learning from others who have gone before us – so I hope you’ve found it helpful! Please let me know if you’ve done something similar and if you have any other tips?