This is a guest post by our good friend, Sherrie Eldridge. Her best-selling work, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, is considered required reading by many US adoption agencies. In 2010, she was named Indiana’s Congressional Angel of Adoption by the Honorable Dan Burton, Indiana Congressional Representative. Follow Sherrie’s blog here.
I still remember the snotty-nosed eight year old kids that encircled me and taunted, “Sherrie’s adopted, Sherrie’s adopted.” It was in a corner of the school yard, out of the sight of teachers. To this day, I can recall the color of the bricks in the background.
Today, I’m thinking about your kids going off to school and some of the jeers they may experience:
- Where do your real parents live?
- Why is your skin a different color than your parents?
- When are you going back to the place where bananas grow?
- Why didn’t your real parents want you?
- How come your hair is so curly? How do you comb it?
The thought of your child being bullied must make you nervous. You are like mama and papa bears and would do anything to protect that child of yours.
However, you won’t be there.
You won’t be there, but there are two practical things you and your child can do to prepare for such times.
I love this activity because you can do it together as a project.
- Gather 20-30 river rocks, at least 3″ in diameter. You can get them at Menard’s or Michael’s.
- Purchase a plastic box with a lid large enough to hold the rocks.
- Get a magic markers, (do they still call them this?).
Then, together with your child, draw on the river rocks:
- Different people.
- Buildings (school, church, jail, hospital etc).
- Feelings (happy, sad, mad, scared).
- Vehicles (car, jeep, ambulance, fire truck).
When that’s complete, encourage your child to create his own story with the rocks. This is where you step back parents, and let your child create his/her story. You will see your child come alive as he chooses the river stones to accompany the thoughts about adoption that come to mind.
Of course, you’ll be applauding and affirming all the way. I can just see you!
This method will instill your child’s creative story in his heart, rather than trying to memorize facts about his adoption or what he thinks others expect him to say.
I now share my adoption story by saying, “I relish the fact that I was adopted!”
There’s another tool I know you’ll appreciate if you aren ‘t familiar with it yet. In the past, whenever speaking, I’ve taught it.
The WISE-UP POWER WORKBOOK.
Another effective tool that helps your child set healthy boundaries. Created by the Center for Adoption Support and Education, it’s a hands-on approach to help your child remember four healthy choices they can make when others are mean and hurtful.
The first choice is:
W= Walk Away.
Not long ago, I spoke with a teen adoptee about bullying. When I told him he could just walk away, he was shocked. He couldn’t imagine doing that. The explanation is that when you turn your back and walk away, it says to the other person, “What you did was hurtful and inappropriate and I will not take it.”
The second choice:
I= It’s Private.
Perhaps your daughter is asked who her “real” parents are. She can put her fingers up to her lips, and say, “Ya know what? That’s private.” Then, walk away.
Maybe another child is just curious about your child’s story. You can teach your child to first ask himself if he feels comfortable sharing. If so, he can share something personal, such as, “I was adopted from Russia.” Assure your child that he doesn’t have to tell the whole story. Share one tidbit and see how the listener responds. Only share more if your child feels safe.
The last choice:
E= Educate about adoption.
I love thinking about nasty kids being educated about adoption. “Did you know that 60% of families in the US are touched by adoption?” That might make the bully’s chin drop. If he comes back with another bullying statement, go for Walk Away.
What are some other ways you’ve prepared your child for school, or the school bully? Share your story with us in the comment section below.