The holiday season can be an exciting time, but also an emotional one for those that are a part of the adoption triad. Though we are celebrating and spending time with family, there is also a sense of loss that can be felt during the holiday season. There are many things you can do to support those during the holiday seasons and things to consider when gift giving, hosting events, and in the things you say and do.
Celebrating First and Birth Families
If you have adopted a child, they may have an interest in celebrating their birth families. If you have an open adoption, you may want to schedule a time to celebrate with birth families or include them in your family’s own celebrations. You have likely formed a relationship with this family and will know their comfort with gift giving, but a handmade item from your child, framed school picture, etc. may be a great gift. If you have a semi open adoption and can still send things to birth families through your adoption agency or social worker, also consider mailing a card, photos, pictures your child has made, etc. Even if a closed adoption is a part of your child’s story, you can still share what you know and write letters that the agency may be able to keep in your child’s file.
Therapist, Kate Murphy explains that the holidays are a time when people think about their families and adoptees will be thinking not only of the family they have, but their first family as well, so pay attention to these emotions and work on ways to support adoptees at this time.
Remember that as much as your child may be grieving, birth parents and biological siblings are likely experiencing similar feelings and bouts of sadness, so consider how you can best support them whether it be through time together, phone calls, letters, etc. This can get tricky and be delicate depending on the level of openness you have in your adoption, but do what you can to not only be a support to your child, but their first families as well.
With a focus on family and family gatherings, remember to pay attention to those in your life impacted by adoption and speak to understand what opportunities you might have over the holiday to connect, share stories, and celebrate the other family members that may not be celebrating with you over the holidays.
Representation Matters: Gift Giving with Purpose
Representation is important to children and kids who are in a transracial family need to see racial mirrors both in person and in the toys that they play with. Consider finding gifts that reflect who they are in your family. Doll companies like American Girl and Barbie have done an amazing job of inclusion in their toys. In recent years, most major brands have made great strides to ensure that they have inclusive toys that help children find mirrors in their own home. When shopping, consider this. My daughter has a myriad of toys, but I’ll never forget when she got her first doll with almost her exact same shade of skin and hair texture. It was so affirming for her and it’s something that I consider when shopping for her each year.
Though as children get older, they’re lists become filled with more electronics, gaming devices, and clothes, you can still find ways to gift intentionally to support their own diversity, but also to find ways to celebrate their unique story, background, and biological families.
- Learn more about diversifying your toys in this New York Times article.
- For more gift suggestions, read this article.
With more family time and discussions centered around family, adoptees in your life are bound to have more questions over the holidays. It has always been my policy to be as honest as possible to my child. She knows her birth story and she knows what information we do have about her birth family.
American Adoptions also shares the importance of being honest when you answer your child’s questions and notes that you should use this time to “reinforce positive and appropriate adoption language.” As children grow and mature, these conversations may shift, but the holidays can be a time where more questions are asked.
Supporting Adoptees and Birth Parents
Though an exciting time, the holidays can also cause stress and depression for many. Adoptees and birth parents may have complicated feelings of depression, grief, and sadness. Be as supportive as you can and reach out to your adoption agency for support and resources.
For coping mechanisms and more information about holiday induced stress and anxiety, read this article.
It is important to remember that everyone experiences different feelings over the holidays and we can be a support to them during this time to help celebrate and remember everyone that is a part of our family and what makes us who we are.