6 Ways to Honor Your Child’s Birthfamily (When You Don’t Have an Open Adoption)
We’ve all heard from those who seem to have the ideal open adoption with their child’s birthfamily. They do everything together and meet every other week. We hear from every corner of the world that open adoption is always best and our children must have a relationship with their biological parents to feel secure and complete. There are so many differing perspectives and opinions on adoption-related topics. It’s impossible to know what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s tough to know how to answer hard questions that get thrown our way and react gracefully in front of our children when they’re asked. It’s a constant work-in-progress, at least for me, and I’ll never claim to know everything about adoption because it’s just too vast, too deep, too complex. But I think there are so many ways to “get it right” when raising an adopted child. I believe we can raise happy, mentally healthy children, even when an open adoption may not be possible.
There are so many reasons for closed adoptions. There are often semi-open adoptions which may include only minimal contact. Maybe it is your choice or your child’s birthmother’s choice. Maybe you live across the country from each other. Maybe it’s unhealthy or unsafe to have communication. Maybe your child’s biological parents have passed away or you don’t know where they are. Whatever the reason is, trust that you can still raise a child who feels overwhelmingly loved, honored, cared for, and familiar with their roots. Trust that you are wholly capable of supporting a child to feel completely loved, secure, and confident even when the situation isn’t ideal or like these that you see on social media.
Here are six ways that we honor and love on our children’s birthfamilies when we don’t have much contact or visits with them.
• Talk about it. We talk about each of my daughter’s birthfamilies a lot. My daughters are too young (1 and 2 years old) to ask questions so it’s mostly my husband and I talking but we do it. We tell them how excited we were the first time we talked to their birthmothers. We included little details such as “Miss K was wearing the most beautiful pink shirt the day we met her!” and we look around their room to find a color that matches it. If you never met your child’s birth parents, ask your agency/attorney for help. Gather information such as their birth dates, eye color, hair color. If you have access to medical records you can find little details like their height or health. We tell our daughters about hobbies that their birthmothers had or what music they liked to listen too. We have books about the state that our girl’s birthfamilies live in and like learning fun facts about those states. While reading we’ll say “hmmm, I wonder if Miss N knows what the state bird is!” Make it natural and honest. I believe the only way to go wrong here is NOT talking about it. I want my kids to talk about their biological families comfortablly and know it’s not a shameful or hidden subject.
• Pictures. If you meet your child’s biological family, take pictures. If you don’t have pictures, ask your agency or attorney to see if they can gather any for you. Use Facebook. If your child’s biological parents have a Facebook page, at least their profile picture would be public. Get the pictures printed. Each of my girls have a framed picture in their room of their birthmother and we see it every day. Thankfully, I was able to collect many photos from each of my daughter’s birthmothers and some extended family and I printed every single one. Many of them are now part of their scrapbook and I wrote down all the details that I knew about them (which isn’t a lot but it’s something).
• Send gifts. If possible, send a care package to your child’s birthmother – even once a year is fine. We send small handmade cards or little paintings. Even if we never get a reply, we send it anyways. We take pictures of what we included in the package and the date we sent it and add it to their scrapbook. My youngest daughter’s birthmother loves elephants. So, we bought two stuffed elephants and sent one to her birthmother and my youngest daughter has the other one in her room and we always talk about how they each have the same elephant. My oldest daughter’s birthmother loves the Serenity Prayer so we bought two wooden plaques with the quote and sent one to her and the other hangs in my daughter’s room.
• Mention them in your prayers. If you’re the praying type, include your child’s birthfamily in your nightly prayers. Mention their name so it’s always comfortable to say it. At the end of each day, we talk about what we’re grateful for. Sometimes, we’re grateful for new pants, sunshine, fresh tomatoes from the garden, a warm bath. And sometimes we say how grateful we are for Miss K. It’s as natural as breathing for us. We’ll often say things like “we hope Miss N feels safe and loved today” to include them in our thoughts even when they’re far away.
• Respect their privacy. I think it’s natural for our own family and friends to be curious about our child’s birth parents. I’ve been asked countless inappropriate questions about my children’s birthfamily and my kids are usually present which makes my response extra important. I only speak positivity about their birthfamily and I always respect their story and privacy. Of course, I’ll be honest with my children at age-appropriate times. But I will never detail their story to anyone else or say anything that would indicate to my kids that I’m ashamed by their biological family.
• Include your child. At least in my head, this is easy to do. My children aren’t old enough to get too involved in these conversations yet. But, as they get older, I plan to include my child in these conversations as much as possible. Instead of my husband and I always telling them about their adoption and biological family, I want to include them in the conversations, too. This can be as simple as “we’re having sweet potatoes for dinner. Do you think your birthfather liked sweet potatoes?” I certainly want to include their physical traits, as well. For example, we’ll look at pictures and say “Look at your nose in the mirror. Do you think it looks more like your birthmothers or birthfathers?” and maybe take a family vote for fun. We do these things already but it will be fun when my daughters get older and can participate a little more.