News and blogs Latest blogs Feeling different in school One of the things that adoptive families often struggle to communicate to people outside of the adoption community is how adoption permeates every aspect of life. Like the writing in a stick of rock, it is always there under the surface, occasionally glimpsed from the outside and just needing a knock or two to expose it. Today I was reminded how easily in school we can be that external impact. A simple task from a teacher to develop personal writing skills (write your autobiography) or start a Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood topic (find out what your first words were or bring in a baby photo) can be the knock which exposes the loss and trauma associated with adoption. The child must confront all the angst of adoption – life story questions, insecurities, feeling different – which are suddenly triggered by the task. What happens is that instead of being in a calm, focused state ready to concentrate on the teacher’s Learning Intention, suddenly the child’s internal state has been switched on to high alert and the mind has to cope with all the processing of additional thoughts. There are several things that could happen from this point: the child explodes violently in class; the child carries on with the task; there is a playground confrontation later in the day; or finally, the child explodes violently at home. Whatever happens, there is no doubt that tasks like these compel children to question who they are and forces them to do this in an environment where they are likely to feel under threat and ‘different’ already. Some people take the view that adoption is a just a fact of life; surely, the child must just get on with it? To an extent, this is true - in much the same way a person gets on with bereavement, illness, life-changing dilemmas: we choose when and who to share our news with. We tend not to divulge our most important life facts to all and sundry. Sharing to a room full of classmates is laying bare your most important life facts. And, once they are out there, you cannot take them back. Everyone knows. It is easy for someone who does not like you suddenly to use these facts against you. As adults we seek out people who have our best interests at heart. We share important life facts with those we trust and love. Generally, we do this with our families. There is a very simple way to make sure the adopted child is protected from this kind of exposure in school: communicate with parents before you broach sensitive subjects in school. A simple forewarning allows the family to talk together and plan the child’s responses. Many families prepare an information sheet for teachers highlighting tricky subjects. Take heed. Read the transition notes and develop a relationship with home that keeps the child firmly in the centre. Likewise, it is important that parents share information with school staff. Teachers want to do the best by the children they teach. When they are fully informed, they can support the child and family more effectively. Schools will not know a child is adopted unless this information has been shared by parents. Shared information and ongoing communication are the best ways to support adopted children throughout their education. Like the stick of rock, many of our children can present a hard shell to the outside world yet the insecurities of their early experiences lie just beneath the surface. A few knocks here and there can easily crack that hard shell, exposing the insecurities below. A lack of planning and information sharing between school and home can inadvertently lead to additional trauma but parents and teachers who work together can help to guard against this. Thinking ahead to likely themes which may occur in novels, considering the potential impact of an NSPCC visit or wondering about how a drug and alcohol topic might affect a care-experienced child can help minimise the risk of any ‘accidental knock’. Adoption UK has a number of factsheets to help parents and teachers share information. They also host monthly education discussions for teachers and parents to support each other.