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An adoptive parent’s guide to the first day of school

The first day of school is hard for every parent. For adoptive parents, this day (like many others during your parenting journey!) is full of mixed emotions. You are excited for your child to go to school and experience so many incredible new things. But you are also sad to see her grow up because it means spending more time away from her after working so hard to build your family. Here are some ways you can cope and commemorate the first day of school for both you and your child.

1. Create a journal

Leading up to the first day of school, create a journal with your child about all the things she is excited about for school. You can get very creative with this journal and make it a fun, end-of-summer project to work on. Your child can draw pictures, add photos and bedazzle the journal with glitter and paint. This is a great keepsake to have as she grows and it will help you feel more excited about her going to school.

2. Make a photo collage

Amp up the excitement for the first day of school by showing your child how big she has become with a photo collage. Start with pictures from the adoption process, like a copy of your adoption profile, and continue up to present day. You can even make it an activity with your child to allow her to pick out her favorite photos. The photo collage can hang up in your child’s room or she can bring it to school to show the new friends she is going to make. This will make the child feel grown up and important while allowing you an opportunity to reflect upon your parenting journey up until this point.

3. Involve your child’s birth mother

Remember that this is a big day for your child’s birth mother as well. It’s very thoughtful to check how she would like to commemorate the day, whether it be receiving a picture of your child getting onto the school bus or having a phone conversation with the birth mother leading up to the big day. Along with the other crafts you may make with your child, have her help create something special just for their birth mother to keep her involved in the process. This could be a card or a letter about how excited your child is about her new adventure or even a small gift that your child can help pick out. Keeping your child’s birth mother involved is not only a meaningful way to include her in the child’s life but it’s also an opportunity for your child to share this first day of school excitement with everyone important in her life.

4. Be prepared for new questions and feelings about adoption

Over time through school, your child may encounter situations in which other kids do not understand adoption and may make inappropriate comments to your child, whether well-intentioned or not. Be prepared for these moments — begin thinking of how you want to handle these situations and how you want to prepare your child to handle them. Some parents wait until that moment happens to talk with their child about how to handle these types of situations. Others are proactive and prepare their child for a possible lack of understanding about adoption. However you want to approach it, teach your child patience and how to help educate people about what her adoption is all about — family and love.

Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy, an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months.

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