The Impact on Adopted Children at School

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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Children who are adopted can be affected both academically and socially at school. Many times adopted children fantasize and grieve over their birth family. This affects their ability to concentrate in the classroom and has a huge impact on grades.

Adopted children are often bullied and teased by peers. They're told they must be bad and that is why their birth parents gave them away. This affects the child's self-esteem, which in turn reduces the child's ability to perform well in the classroom and on the playground. It makes it difficult for him to work in groups and take part in activities that make him venerable to social cruelty.

Day Care/Kindergarten

In today's society, children start kindergarten as young as four-years-old. Many of them attend day care from the time they are toddlers. Here they learn social skills and develop self-esteem, as well as motor development and creative expression. At this age children haven't yet learned prejudice unless their parents have taught it. Therefore, children who are adopted do not experience prejudice at this stage of their lives. They only know that families are people who live together and love one another.

Elementary School

Elementary school begins at age six when your child moves into grade one. At this age, children begin to gain independence and participate in activities that help them to develop new social skills. This is the age when adopted children will sense that being adopted makes them different. They begin to feel a sense of loss and abandonment and experience stigmas that are attached to it. They may feel they were adopted because:

They weren't smart enough.

They weren't pretty or handsome.

They were too much bother.

They weren't loved or are not loveable.

These are only a few of the reasons that adopted children feel they were given up. Thinking these things makes it difficult for them to focus and concentrate in the classroom, which inhibits their ability to learn. This causes obstacles and hurdles that must be overcome. If the child has a learning disability, this is often the age that it comes to the attention of educators.

When children begin elementary school, it should be left up to them whether or not to tell their peers they are adopted. Be sure that your child realizes that once they tell their classmates that they're adopted, there is no way to reverse their decision. Assist your child in realizing that people, including their peers, will react differently to the information.

Problem Solving

It doesn't matter if your child was adopted at birth or later in life through foster care; all adopted children will experience the same issues. If there is potential for problems at school because your child is adopted, recruit the help of school personnel to be part of the problem solving team. Other members of the team will include yourself, other families that have adopted children in the school and your social worker. These people will need information relevant to your child, but only reveal that which is absolutely necessary. Counselors and therapists will need more detailed information in order to help your child but teachers need only enough history to understand academic and behavior issues that affect your child's ability in the school setting.

Special Needs

If your child will need special accommodations within the school that are not normally provided, be sure to advocate for these well in advance. In most cases, it takes several months for school administration to put these in place.

Family Tree

When your child moves up into grade three or four, he will probably be required to create a family tree. It's best if you let the child's teacher know in advance that he is adopted. This helps both your child and the teacher feel at ease with his project. If you have information or photos of his biological family, allow him to include them if he wishes. This will make your child more comfortable about his adoption and where he fits in. In return, his family tree project will be a positive one that will boost his self-esteem.

Most of all, be sure your child feels comfortable with his adopted status in the classroom and on the playground. If not, talk to the school's administrative staff and work together with your team to help your child feel that he is part of the school setting and find his place in the pecking order of his peers. Be forewarned that in some cases professional counseling may be necessary.

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