Every child has the right to feel safe and accepted. Many kids who joined their families through adoption, however, face questions and comments from schoolmates, teachers, and even strangers that lead to feelings of difference and inadequacy.
Even well-meaning friends and trusted adults can say things that place an adopted child’s family in a category of “other” or “less than.” Just the other day, on Facebook, one of my friends posted that her child was reading a book about phobias, out loud, just to creep her out. Jokingly, she wrote, “I’m considering adoption.” Harmless - unless you were adopted, or you parent through adoption, or you’re a birthparent. Then it’s not so funny.
My kids, who were adopted, heard many, many subtle and overt comments about adoption (and race) as they were growing up, and it made an impact. They’ve grown into healthy, strong young women - but they carry scars from a continual barrage of judgements and assumptions people made of them because of their adoptions.
With our preschoolers, we can normalize adoption as just another way to form a family, where the bonds between parents and children are just as strong and loving as those between members of any other family.
The following two books offer great starting points for discussions about different family configurations, including adoption:
The Family Book
Like all books by Todd Parr, this one has simple text and vivid illustrations. “Some families are the same color; some families are different colors … Some families have two moms or two dads … (and) Some families adopt children.” As usual, Parr adds a dose of silliness into the mix: “Some families look like their pets.” In its simple but powerful way, The Family Book affirms a variety of family structures, concluding that “All families can help each other be strong.”
A Mother for Choco
In A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza, a little yellow bird with blue wings, striped feet, and puffy cheeks goes looking for a mother. He asks every animal he sees, but they all rebuff him because he doesn’t look like them: “‘I’m sorry,’ said Mrs. Penguin, ‘but I don’t have big, round cheeks like you.’” By the time he meets Mrs. Bear, Choco feels so distraught that he doesn’t even think of asking her to be his mother. She comforts him, gives him a bear hug, and brings him home to join the rest of her adopted children: Piggy, Hippo, and Ally (a baby alligator). A Mother for Choco provides a nice entre into a conversation with your child about adoption and the love between adoptive parents and children. It doesn’t come close to accurately portraying the way adoptive families come together, but it’s a sweet, comforting book.
Note: When they learn about adoption, non-adopted children may feel scared that if they do something bad, their parents will send them to be adopted by another family. Please reassure your child that adoption never, ever, ever happens because of something the child does. It only happens when birthparents can not raise their child because of big, adult problems.