There's a good chance that children will have the opportunity to create a family tree at some point during their school years. This can be a fun and engaging project for the entire family. However, it can also cause challenges that need to be addressed.
There are many different types of families that make up a family tree. From parents who are single, married, divorced, straight, or with life partners, the “traditional” family tree has become much more diverse.
The same theory holds true when it comes to the family tree and adoption. Through domestic, relative, and international adoptions, there are hundreds of ways to create family trees. But where does one start?
Certainly, for a school project, your child's teacher may have guidelines that you should follow. The typical guidelines include a large tree, with the child's name and/or picture at the top. There is usually a diagram stemming from the child's picture, indicating other family members and descendants. This is a perfectly fine way to create a family tree.
However, if this type of tree doesn't meet your family's needs, don't hesitate to speak up! For example, children who were adopted may have relationships or connections with birth relatives. The traditional family tree doesn't always include this important part of the child's life.
Creating a family forest, or a global family tree are two ways to expand the traditional family tree model.
The idea behind this family tree is that there is a drawing and/or picture of the child in a tree on the center of the page. The child chooses words and pictures to describe him or her self. The tree may have branches where the child can add family members. Another way to include family members and other important people is to create a garden under the tree. The tree is surrounded by flowers and trees with each representing a relative or special person in the child's life.
Global Family Tree
Often times, a child who was adopted may have international relatives. From birth parents to birth grandparents to siblings, they may want to include this part of their life on their family tree. Again, every situation is different. However, if the child feels it's important to feature relatives who are a part of his life, it's important to respect his decision.
For this type of family tree, a picture of the child's face is in center of the page in a circle or “globe”. Lines can be drawn to other globes indicating where the child's relatives are living, or where the child was born. An outline of the state or country can appear in each globe, or, it can simply contain the name of the family member or other important person in the child's life.
There are some adoptive and foster care situations where the family tree is a very sensitive subject. Allowing the child to talk about these situations and fully express his or her thoughts about the family tree is crucial. Don't forget to remind the child about positive influences and people int their life, such as classmates, teachers, foster parents, and socials workers. While it doesn't hold true for every situation, sometimes these special people can be an important part of the child's family tree, even years after the adoption was finalized.
When possible, every effort should be made to ensure that the family tree project is educational and fun, but not overwhelming for the child. Good communication between the child, parents, and teachers may help facilitate a fun and engaging family tree project.
To discuss additional ways of creating family trees, please visit the Adoption Forum!