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Tackling Family Tree Assignments with an Adopted Child

School is back in full swing, which also means that the dreaded homework assignments are also now a part of parents’ evening routines. But, on top of helping with math and reading assignments, parents are also instrumental in one homework assignment in particular: creating a family tree.
These assignments can be difficult enough for any family (tracing lineage isn’t always the easiest task), but when it comes to families who have added to their family through adoption, the assignment is even trickier. After all, how do you create an adoption family tree when the assignment is so focused on the biological aspect of a family relationship? What does a family tree for an adopted child look like?
With a little creativity, you can learn how to show adoption on a family tree in a way that’s respectful and makes your child happy. Remember, adoption is always something to be proud of — and there are several ways you can incorporate your child’s unique adoption story into his family tree assignment.
Here are some tips if you’re wondering how to show adoption on a family tree:

1. Explore alternative designs for your adoption family tree.

While we’re all familiar with what a typical family tree looks like, you will likely need to be creative with the design when you’re incorporating birth and adoptive families into this assignment. Instead of a traditional tree design, you may wish to look to other adoption family tree templates. For example, some people create a family “forest,” incorporating multiple trees for an adoptee’s birth and adoptive family. Others place an adopted child in the roots of the tree, with different branches representing parents (and smaller branches diverging off of those main ones).

2. Find an alternative activity to complete.

Perhaps an adoption family tree isn’t the most positive experience for your child, especially if they don’t know much about their birth family history. With the permission of your child’s teacher, you may wish to complete a less-literal family tree. You could create a “family meadow,” where you include not only family members but also your neighbors, your community and anyone else who is present in your child’s upbringing. To stay with the family tree theme, your child may instead choose to complete a family tree for a famous person in history, like a president. You can view some other ideas for family tree and history assignments here.

3. Talk to your child’s teacher early on and often.

When you have an adopted child, it’s important that your child’s teacher understands their family situation from the first day of school. This way, they can be inclusive of your child in activities like family trees or genetics lessons that typically emphasize biological connections over any other familial relationship. When your child is assigned a family tree lesson, make sure you express your concerns to their teacher, so they know to expect a slightly different assignment from your child. They may even have suggestions for how to show adoption on a family tree or alternative assignments your child can complete.
For the most part, an adopted child’s schooling should not be any different from a child with any other kind of family structure — but it is important to recognize how these structures can affect a child’s ability to complete a certain assignment. There’s not just a different family tree for an adopted child but for any other child who has divorced parents, or a single-parent or other nontraditional household. So, if you do find yourself struggling to complete an adoption family tree, we encourage you to reach out to not only your child’s teacher but also fellow adoptive parents and adoptive parent resources to find out what options are available to you.