How Adoption Impacts Children at School: The Preschool Years

Like all children, adopted children spend a good portion of their waking hours in school. Because school is such an important aspect of children’s lives, adoptive parents, like all parents, want their child’s school experience to be a positive one. When your child has a problem at school, you might find yourself wondering, “ Is this a problem related to adoption, or is it a typical problem common to all children?”
Your child’s nursery school experience is often the first time they will interact socially with other children, without the protection of their immediate family. Educational goals for preschool children are normally simple. Supporting the development of the child’s self-esteem, improving social skills, such as taking turns, sharing, and following directions and creative expression are encouraged. Activities may center on learning colors, shapes, number concepts, and letters.

Whether to tell the preschool staff that your child was adopted is a question with no absolute correct answer. If your adoption is visible, as is the case with transcultural adoptions, the topic will come up automatically. Since preschools are often private and separate from the public school system, the preschool years are a good time for adoptive parents to practice interacting with school personnel and other parents about adoption related issues. This reduces any fears that a label will follow their child throughout his/her school career. Parents can start to get comfortable with the idea of sharing information about their child’s adoption if they feel it is appropriate or that it can help their child’s adjustment to school. You should do what will make your child feel loved and accepted. It is not; however, necessary to share all the details of the adoptive situation with the teacher.

Children, who are 3 or 4 years old and were adopted domestically or internationally as infants or toddlers, rarely show any adoption-related school adjustment problems. Since they do not fully understand reproduction yet, they cannot really understand what adoption means. They may happily tell the story of their adoption to anyone who will listen. Preschool children are usually accepting of all children who behave in a friendly way. They do not have prejudices about sexual orientation, race or skin color, unless they are actively taught to have it. Transracially and transculturally adopted children; therefore, probably won’t experience prejudice during this stage.

Children this age are aware of differences in physical features though, and may need some help to understand them. If the children and teachers in your son or daughter’s class at preschool seem curious about adoption, you might want to share positive adoption language and books that either you or the teacher can read to the class about how adoption is just another way to form a family.

By Leslie Zindulka LCSW-R of Adoptiondoctors.com and Adoptioneducationclasses.com
Visit Leslie on the web at Adoptionsocialworkny.com