Using family trees in the classroom

22nd September 2006 at 01:00
While most pupils enjoy talking about family trees, a lesson devoted to genealogy can be deeply distressing for an adopted child who has not been prepared for it.

One mother describes what happened when the daughter she had adopted just six months previously went into Year 2.

"The class teacher knew the situation and asked her to choose which family she would like to do her family tree about. Can you imagine what it was like for a six-year-old being told to make that choice? She just didn't know what to do.

"I think the teacher was trying to be diplomatic and sensitive, but actually she made it worse. That word 'choose' was difficult for my daughter to cope with. Her loyalties were to us, but they were also to her blood family. She came home in the most distraught state I've ever seen her in."

Sarah Pepys says that adoptive parents should be given advanced warning if a sensitive subject is coming up. "A lesson about family trees is classic.

Most adopted children these days know that they are adopted, and they also know quite a bit about their early history. But it's one thing to know about it, and quite another to put it down on paper and draw it. It's something we urge adoptive parents to talk to the teacher about, so they can get the photographs out and talk them through it at home."

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