My husband and I adopted our 11 year old daughter when she was four years old. She recently started in a new school. Our daughter is African American and Filipino. My husband and I are both Caucasian. There is some diversity within her classroom, but there are no other adoptive families. She’s gotten non-stop questions about being a different “color” from her parents and, when she told a group of kids that it’s because she was adopted, they said they “feel sorry for her.” She does not want a classroom presentation about adoption or any more attention brought to this, but she’s clearly upset about it. What can I do?
— Needing help in Saticoy
As parents, it is challenging when we can’t just makes things better for our kids. As children get older, they may want to address more and more situations on their own. Fortunately, there are ways you can help in this situation while still respecting your daughter’s boundaries. Rather than give a presentation to her class, consult with the teacher to make sure he or she is aware of these comments and the hurt they cause, and help your daughter’s teacher prepare some supportive responses when these comments are made in his or her presence. For example, the teacher might want to address with the class the many ways that families are created which could address the diversity within families and include adoptive families as one of the many wonderful and normal ways that families are formed.
Talking with your daughter may seem more difficult, but it is important for her to be able to talk through what is most hurtful about these questions and comments. She may feel some inadequacy about your family or she may be internalizing adoption as some-thing she caused rather than a choice made by adults. She may be concerned about how peers view her. The comments may have inspired new questions about her birth family, and it could be an excellent opportunity to share any additional information you may have with her. If your daughter seems hesitant to open up, try talking while in the car or during some other activity when eye contact is not required. This tends to make it easier for kids to volunteer the things they are thinking.