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15
Sep

Siblings and Adoption: What it Means to Your Child

If you’re a birth or adoptive parent, your child may have a lot of questions about siblings and adoption. Your child may be trying to sort through their emotional connection to biological siblings, half siblings, and/or siblings they aren’t genetically related to.

This can seem understandably complex for them and for you. But a person’s siblings are some of the most important relationships they can have in their lifetime, and studies show that blending biological and non-biological siblings has no effect on children.

Talking with your child through their thoughts and feelings about sibling relationships and adoption can help solidify sibling bonds as well as strengthen their own self-confidence. The following scenarios may be common for birth and adoptive parents when talking to children about siblings and adoption:

For Birth Parents

It can be hard at first for the child(ren) you’re raising to understand why their biological sibling or half-sibling is being raised by a different family.

Every child processes their thoughts and feelings differently. Common situations may include:

  • They ask “why” their adopted sibling was placed for adoption, and they ask many times.
  • They worry about how their adopted sibling is doing.
  • They grow silent and sullen when the topic of their adopted sibling comes up.
  • They draw pictures for their adopted sibling or talk about him or her often.
  • They beg for a visit if the adoption is open.
  • They create a fantasy vision of their adopted sibling’s life if the adoption is more closed.

These responses can weigh on your own thoughts and feelings regarding adoption, or can bring back up old emotions.

Try to remember that your child is coming to terms with adoption in their own way; which may be different from your own process, and that you’ll need to stay patient, positive, and supportive of them while they do so.

When talking to your child about a sibling who was placed for adoption, the following tips can be helpful:

  • Begin talking to your child about their sibling’s adoption as early as possible to avoid an emotionally shocking and painful surprise, which can damage their trust in you.
  • Remind your child that their adopted sibling is happy and loved by both you and their adoptive family.
  • Be honest, but age-appropriate, about why their birth sibling was placed for adoption.
  • Answer their questions honestly, and ask follow-up questions about their own feelings.
  • Speak positively about adoption and the adoptive family, and explain that many families grow through adoption.
  • Remind your child that it’s ok to talk about their adopted sibling, to ask questions, and to talk about their feelings.

If you have questions about how to talk to your child about their sibling’s adoption, or if you need additional support and resources for talking to your child about their adopted sibling, you can always ask an Adoption Specialist by calling 1-800-ADOPTION.

For Adoptive Parents

You may have children who’ve come into your family through different ways, be it biologically, through surrogacy, foster care, adoption, or any other path. While siblings will love each other no matter how they came to be in the same family, the differences in their personal stories often need to be talked about.

For example, if you have two children who were both adopted but have different birth families, consider how your child may feel if:

  • Their sibling has a more open relationship with their birth family, while they have little to no communication with their own birth family.

Or, if you have a child biologically and another child through adoption, remember:

  • Your biological child may feel hurt by common adoption language like “chosen,” or “special,” and feel that they were not “selected” by you.
  • Your adopted child may feel alienated by shared genetic characteristics in the family that they don’t share, or as if they’re an “outsider.”

If your adopted child has birth siblings that their birth parents didn’t place for adoption, consider:

  • They’ll likely question why they were placed for adoption, but not their biological sibling.
  • They’ll wonder what it would’ve been like to be raised with their biological siblings.
  • They may feel jealous that their birth siblings know what it’s like to be raised by their birth parent(s) but they themselves will never know.
  • They may feel “replaced” if their birth parent has another child after placing them for adoption.

Every child’s personal adoption story and relationship with their birth family (including birth siblings) will be unique. So the best tip when talking with your adopted child about siblings: keep the dialogue open and keep listening.

Your child’s feelings about adoption will continue to evolve as they grow up. Reminding them that it’s ok to talk about their ever-changing thoughts and feelings about adoption and siblings will be important for them to feel secure enough to come to you if they have questions or worries. It may be up to you to introduce the topic!

Keep Listening

Siblings are an important part of a child’s life. Biological connections certainly aren’t required for children to be siblings. But that doesn’t mean we should overlook the emotional significance of biological siblings in adoption.

For both birth and adoptive parents, if your child has siblings — biological siblings, half siblings, or siblings that they aren’t genetically related to, remember:

  • Always be honest with your child about adoption and siblings.
  • Start talking about your child’s siblings as part of your family’s adoption story from Day 1.
  • Let your child know that it’s ok to talk about adoption and siblings, and that they can talk about how they feel.
  • It’s ok to ask questions.

Every child will have different feelings regarding their adoption and siblings, so keep listening to what your child has to say! You can always ask an Adoption Specialist about how to talk to your child about siblings and adoption by calling 1-800-ADOPTION.

 

28
Aug

Adoption-Educating Tips for Teachers and Parents

As the first weeks of school approach, students and teachers will take this time to get to know each other through ice-breaker activities, personal show-and-tells and other “about me” lessons. While this can be exciting for most students, it can present difficulties for students who have been adopted and can’t answer all of the “about me” questions they’re asked.

That’s why it’s important that teachers, students (adopted or not) and their parents take steps to recognize adoption in the classroom and help make adoptees feel more included. Being adopted is enough to make an adoptee feel different, but when it’s not properly and positively addressed in the classroom, a child can feel even more isolated from their peers.

Whether your child is headed off to school or you’re a teacher preparing for your new class, here are some tips for keeping adoption in mind throughout the school year:

Address a Child’s Adoption Early On

It’s important that teachers know if a student’s family structure differs from what they may expect as the “traditional” family — whether that’s through adoption, a divorce, a single-parent or same-sex household or something else.  The more a teacher knows about their students’ backgrounds, the easier it will be to include them in relevant discussions without inadvertently addressing sensitive subjects. Teachers should take the extra effort to learn about these differences from the students’ parents or, if appropriate, the student themselves as early as possible.

Parents should also take initiative to explain their child’s adoption to their teacher early on, as well as any educational topics that may make the child uncomfortable.

Make Activities Adoption-Inclusive

We’ve all completed the traditional “family tree” project in elementary school. But what’s an easy process for a biological child can be near impossible for an adoptee that doesn’t have extensive information on their biological family. They may be able to make a family tree for their adoptive family, but because many of these activities heavily emphasize genetic relationships, it can be a distressing assignment.

Family trees aren’t the only problematic activity for adopted children; personal timelines of their life, collections of baby photos and family photos and even history lessons on immigration (for internationally adopted children) can cause confusion and feelings of being different. While these activities don’t necessarily have to be scrapped from the lesson plan, teachers can take steps to make them more inclusive of different family structures:

  • Instead of a family “tree,” create family “forests” that allow for multiple family structures to be used. This allows adoptees to create family trees for birth and adoptive parents, or place themselves as the root of a tree with multiple branches and trunks. This can also be a useful tool for children whose parents are divorced.

 

  • In immigration and history lessons, teachers should be sensitive of an adopted child’s background, especially if they are the only person of their race in the classroom. Teachers should also take extra effort to make sure these lessons aren’t discriminatory towards immigrants. Never force adopted children to participate in immigration discussions about their country, and remember that adoptees have multiple families who may have immigrated to the United States at various times in history.

 

  • Genetics lessons can be confusing for children who don’t know what their birth parents look like. It can also bring up questions from their peers who want to know why the adoptee doesn’t look like their parents. Any discussion of genetics should be accompanied by a conversation that not all families are created genetically — and that’s perfectly normal and beautiful.

 

  • Allow students their privacy. If a student does not wish to participate in an activity, don’t exclude them from it; try to change the curriculum around them so they don’t feel isolated. Emphasize that no child has to answer questions for a certain activity that they don’t know the answer to or don’t feel comfortable discussing.

For more tips for educators on how to make adoption a normal part of your classroom, check out the “Adoption Basics for Educators” booklet from the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association and the Children’s Bureau list of resources for teachers. Remember: These tips should not just be for teachers with adoptees in their class but for all educators in general.

Adoption is a common part of American families’ lives today, so it only makes sense that it should be a common part of everyday curriculum in children’s schools. Adoptive parents should always address these topics with their child’s teacher early on and research other tips to make their child’s educational experience as inclusive and as positive as possible.

Share this article to help spread the word to teachers, parents, and students!

21
Aug

5 Birth Family Visit Ideas

Whether you’re an adoptive family planning a visit to see birth family, or a birth family brainstorming fun activities for everyone to do during an upcoming visit, you may feel a little nervous about your open adoption visit. Emotions are sometimes a little heightened for everyone during visits, especially early on, but there’s no need to be anxious!

Having a couple ideas for fun things to do during your visit will ensure that the kid(s) aren’t too restless, but that you’ll all still have some quality time to catch up and relax together.

Remember not to over-plan. It’s good to have some loose structure. Aim for activities that can work as an ice-breaker, but not a distraction! The point of these visits is for everyone to spend some time with one another, and most importantly, with the child that you all love.

These five ideas for birth family visits will get you planning for your next get-together:

1. Visit the zoo:

Who doesn’t love the zoo? You can walk around and take your time looking at the animals, allowing birth and adoptive families some time to catch up without having to feel like you’re stuck sitting around. Chances are your kids will be educating everyone with plenty of zoological facts by the end of the day!

You can find local zoos and aquariums here.

2. Take a picnic to the park:

Pack up a special-occasion meal that your kids love (check in with the birth or adoptive family ahead of time in case there are allergies or dietary needs to consider) or one of these fun picnic snacks and head to a park with a playground! The grown-ups can sit and chat, or get in on the games, too.

This can be a great option if there’s an infant who needs to be held and fed while older kids play.

3. Go out to eat (bonus points if it has a play area):

Never underestimate the appeal of a McDonald’s or Chuck E. Cheese to the younger crowd. Everyone can eat, talk, and play. It may seem a little loud or chaotic, but that’s kids for you, right? If the kids are having fun, everyone will have fun! Plus, there’s one of these types of restaurants just about everywhere, which makes planning for travel a breeze.

4. Have a board game session:

Break out your family’s favorite game or test out some of these. Not everyone loves certain types of games like trivia or charades games, so try to play something light and fun that everyone can enjoy the leaves plenty of time to talk before and after your game.

5. Take on a project together:

Let your child’s interests be your guide! Build a new Lego set together, decorate your own birdhouses, put together a puzzle, or bake and decorate something delicious.

Helping your child with a project together gets everyone involved and talking, but it’s also fun for kids. Keep it simple — no need to tackle something overly complicated or time-consuming.

Have Fun!

Sure, birth family visits are important and beneficial for your child. But they’re also just a great opportunity for birth and adoptive parents to get to know each other better and have fun together with your child. Life is busy, especially with a child! Enjoy these moments together.

7
Aug

25 Helpful Resources for Transracial Adoptive Families

When hopeful parents decide on adoption, many of them are ready to add to their family regardless of race or physical similarities. It’s true that, in many ways, adopting a child of another race is no different than raising a child who shares your ethnic and cultural background. However, while the color of your child’s skin won’t change your family bond, it will have an impact on his or her life.

It’s important to be culturally aware and prepared for the realities of transracial adoption. With the right preparation, transracial adoption can be an immensely rewarding experience. Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best resources to help prospective and current adoptive parents successfully navigate transracial adoption and parenting.

Transracial Adoption Blogs & Websites

Many transracial families document their adoption and parenting journeys through personal blogs and websites. These blogs offer honest, detailed, first-person accounts of transracial adoption and can be a wonderful way for adoptive families and those considering adoption to learn more about the joys and challenges of adopting transracially.

  • The Adopted Life: Angela Tucker is a nationally-recognized thought leader on transracial adoption and an advocate for adoptee rights. In 2013, Angela’s own story of adoption and search for her birth parents was featured in the documentary “Closure.”
  • Rage Against the Minivan: Kristen is the mom of four children, biological and adoptive (foster care and international), all within four years of age. She has been blogging at Rage Against the Minivan since 2006.
  • Jen Hatmaker: Jen Hatmaker is a New York Times bestselling author, blogger, speaker and podcast host who is a mom by birth and international adoption.
  • White Sugar Brown Sugar: Rachel is a four-time adoptive mom, book author, freelance writer and speaker. All of her family’s adoptions are domestic, transracial and open.
  • My Real Kid: Allie Ferguson is a white adoptive mother to an African-American son named Miles. She started her blog in 2013 when she and her husband started the adoption process.
  • The Full Plate: Full Plate Mom (FPM) is mom to 11 kids through private domestic (transracial) adoption and international adoption.
  • Foster Moms: Two moms who adopted a sibling group through foster care blog about transracial adoption, foster care, LGBT parenting and much more.
  • Natalie Brenner Writes: Natalie is a mom to virtual twins not quite five months apart, one through transracial adoption.
  • Confessions of an Adoptive Parent: Mike and Kristen Berry are the parents of eight children, all of whom were adopted. They are also speakers, podcasts hosts and authors of “The Adoptive Parent Toolbox.”

Books about Transracial Adoption

Many new parents stock their bookshelves with resources about what to expect when they bring their child home. Here are a few to add to your collection if you are adopting a child of another race:

If you are adopting transracially, it’s also important to equip your child with plenty of books that celebrate diversity and adoption. These children’s books on adoption can help normalize your child’s adoption story from the start. You can also find more books for transracial adoptive parents and transracially adopted children here.

Transracial Adoption Facebook Groups

There are many online groups for families of transracial adoption. These online forums and support groups can help you connect with other transracial adoptive families, share your personal experiences and participate in discussions about adoption and race. Here are a few commonly recommended Facebook groups to get started:

Before joining a social media group, however, note that not all online forums and discussions are well-monitored. Anyone — even those who aren’t very educated about adoption or have inaccurate information — can jump in and comment, so keep that in mind.

Information for Non-White Parents Adopting Transracially

Most discussions about transracial adoption focus on white parents adopting African American, Hispanic, Asian or biracial children. But transracial adoption refers to any adoption in which parents of one race adopt a child of another — and not all transracial adoptive parents are white.

However, for non-white adoptive parents, resources on transracial adoption can be more difficult to come by. While many of the other resources on this list will be useful for families of any racial or cultural background, here are a few additional articles and resources offering insight for non-white parents:

Other Resources for Transracial Families

As transracial adoption becomes more common, the number of tools and resources available to transracial adoptive parents and adoptees continues to grow. Here are a few more trusted sources for transracial adoption information and support:

Your adoption specialist is another resource who is always available to answer your questions, offer support and provide additional recommendations. Get in touch now by calling 1-800-ADOPTION, or learn more about transracial adoption with our agency by requesting free information online.

4
Aug

5 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Their Adoption

Most adoptive parents understand the importance of talking to their adopted child about their adoption story and adoption identity. However, no matter how much preparation they do, some adoptive parents still wonder exactly how to talk to their child about adoption in a positive way that they can understand.

At American Adoptions, your adoption specialist is always available for support as you’re adjusting to your new life with an adopted child and looking for advice on talking to them about their adoption. Your adopted child may not be the only child you want to talk to about their adoption; you’ll also want to make sure that any biological child or other adopted child that you have in your home also understands this adoption process and what it means to you as a family. Above all else, you’ll want to make sure that any discussion you have about your child’s adoption is positive and a great experience for everyone.

To help you out, we’ve offered some tips for successful conversations with your child about their adoption story:

1. Start discussing their adoption from the moment you bring them home.

Many adoptive parents will ask, “When do I tell my child that they’re adopted?” While it’s understandable that parents may not see the point in talking about adoption to a baby that can’t understand them yet, it’s important to get into the habit of making an adoption discussion open and available from the very beginning. When you constantly discuss your child’s adoption with them, it will become a normal part of their life. They’ll never have a moment when they “learned” they were adopted; it will just be an identity that they’ve had since before they could remember.

2. Be age-appropriate.

While it’s important to talk about your child’s adoption at every stage of their life, how detailed you are with their adoption story may change as they get older. For example, if a child’s birth parents have a tragic backstory, there’s no reason to tell your child until they are slightly older and can fully understand. Instead, tell younger children that their birth mother could not give them the care she needed to and instead choose to place them with a loving family who could. Parents.com has a great guide for discussing adoption as your child grows up in terms they can grasp.

3. Always be open and honest.

As an adoptive parent, it’s normal to feel hurt when your child starts asking about their birth parents. But, while it may come off to you as their desire for their “other” parents, remember that this is a natural curiosity that children have about where they came from. Rather than brush off the topics that make you uncomfortable, take the effort to answer your child’s questions as honestly as you can at their age. Being honest and open about all parts of your child’s adoption story will be immensely beneficial for them in creating an adoption identity that they can be proud of. Secrets, no matter what the reasoning behind them, have the potential to backfire with a child’s young self-esteem. Remember that your child will one day grow up, and they’ll be hurt if you withheld information about their life, even if you meant to “protect” them.

4. Express your excitement and gratitude about the way they came into your life.

As children grow up, they may be faced with negative connotations about adoption. They may be teased at school or overhear other misconceptions about how adoption works. As the source of information on your child’s adoption story, it’s important that you always express positivity when speaking to them about their adoption. Sure, adoption is a bittersweet experience, and you can acknowledge that, but also make sure your child understands how wonderful the adoption process was — because it brought him or her to you. When your child senses your happiness about their adoption story, they’ll start to internalize the same feelings.

5. Recognize that talking about adoption is not a one-time thing.

When parents ask, “When do I talk to my child about adoption?” the answer is “Always.” Talking about adoption is not simply having one conversation and moving on; it’s a lifelong conversation as your child thinks of more questions, wants different answers and develops their identity as an adoptee. It can be difficult at times, but it’s important that you are always open to talking with a child about their adoption, no matter when they ask you. After all, this is an important part of your family story and should be treated as a first priority.

These are just a few of the tips you should keep in mind when you’re discussing adoption with your child. You may have specific questions and concerns about your child’s own adoption story and how to explain it, so we recommend you reach out to your adoption specialist for more ideas on how to have a successful conversation with your child about their adoption. You may also wish to turn to resources like books and movies to better explain adoption to your children, whether they’re biological or adopted. However you decide to talk to your child about adoption, remember that American Adoptions is always here to help.

21
Jul

How to Make the Most Out of Visits with Your Child’s Birth Parents

The days and weeks leading up to a visit with your child’s birth parents can be filled with nerves and emotions. You’re anxious to show them that your child is happy and well adjusted, but worried that the visit won’t be enjoyable for the birth parents or that you just won’t know what to say.

To calm your nerves, we’ve created a “How To” guide for making the most of visits with your child’s birth parents.

1. Choose a Fun Activity

When picking an activity for your meeting, you should look for things that everyone will enjoy. Something that the children will enjoy but that allows you ample time to get to know the birth parents.

Activities that everyone might enjoy include:

  • Going to the zoo
  • Playing on a playground
  • Having a picnic
  • Enjoying a theme park
  • Spending the day at the beach

2. Pay Attention to Your Child’s Feelings

Adopted children often have complex feelings surrounding their birth parents. Leading up to a visit you should talk with your child about these feelings. Asking them if they enjoy visits with their birth parents or if they understand the reason for the visit can start a conversation. Let them know it’s alright to share anything they might be feeling or thinking. Knowing that they can talk to you about their feelings in these situations can help them begin to process them.

3. Address Your Own Feelings

Sometimes adoptive parents have fears about contact with birth parents. They may think these visits will confuse the child or that the birth parents will begin to regret their decision. These are very common fears that should be addressed with your partner before visits. However, you should rest assured that a child having contact with his or her birth parents is extremely beneficial for all involved, and does not confuse a child about parental roles.

4. Help the Birth Parents Feel at Ease

We know, easier said than done, right? Conversations during these visits can be awkward if you haven’t had the chance to form a foundation yet. Fortunately, you have a built-in conversation starter: your child. If you’re nervous about keeping the conversation going take some time beforehand to come up with a few questions you have for the birth parents. If they’re in school, ask how classes are going. If they have other children, ask how things are going with them. Ask what their favorite hobbies and activities are and see if you have any mutual interests. Once you get started the conversation will flow naturally and you won’t have anything to worry about.

The most important thing to remember when visiting your child’s birth parents is to be yourself. They will be able to see that you are wonderful parents and that their child is thriving and happy in your home. Relax, you’re going to do great.

10
Jul

Using Movies to Talk About Adoption

From the moment adoptive parents bring their child home, they should start talking with their child about their adoption. They will need to help their child reach a level of comfort with how their family was formed. To many, this task can be overwhelming.

Adoption at the Movies is a blog run by Licensed Social Worker, Addison Cooper. His blog was started to help parents use movies as a springboard for talking with their kids about adoption. Films are reviewed, and discussion guides are provided. It is the hope of the site that families will be able to engage in open and honest conversations about their adoption stories.

So how can this blog help? There is an updated, alphabetical list of movies that either directly address adoption or foster care, or have relevance to adoption-related issues. When you choose a movie, the link takes you to the following information — a synopsis of the film, how it relates to adoption or foster care, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges of the film, and discussion questions for after you’ve watched the film. 

Ultimately, it is up to families to decide what film is appropriate to be viewed in their home. Parents can select a few, preview them, and then watch them with their kids if they are appropriate. The website’s guide to Disney movies is a great place to start for finding a family-friendly movie. Adoption themes often pop up in Disney movies, even if it is not explicitly mentioned.

When looking at the reviews, pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses of each film. Cooper takes the adoption themes and categorizes them as to whether they present an accurate representation of adoption or foster care. The plots of some films may revolve around adoption, but their portrayal is not always realistic.

In addition to his blog, Cooper also published a book earlier this year — Adoption at the Movies: A Year of Adoption-Friendly Movie Nights to Get Your Family Talking. In it, he recommends one family-friendly movie to view each week for a year. As on the website, each film is reviewed with a list of strengths and weaknesses written for each, as well as discussion questions. This would be a fantastic resource for adoptive and foster families.

Movies can transport us to a different place and help us see things in new ways. They can be a useful, and sometimes easier, vehicle for gaining insight into important life issues. With Cooper’s direction, adoptive families can select films to help them start discussions about issues their family may be facing.

Share your favorite movie with adoption themes!

26
Jun

5 Ways to Honor Your Child’s Adoption Anniversary

Adoption is a significant event in adoptive families’ lives, full of special dates, unforgettable moments and significant milestones. The day your child is born, the day you get the call, the day you first meet each other, the day he or she comes home, and the day your adoption is finalized are all special moments that help shape your family’s history.

For many families, these important adoption anniversaries are cause for celebration. If you are looking for simple ways to celebrate the completion of your family through adoption, here are five ideas for honoring your child’s adoption date:

  • Retell the story. Your child’s adoption anniversary is a great time to open up a conversation about adoption. Look at pictures and review your child’s lifebook, if you have one. You may even work together on a new page to add to their book or to a family scrapbook, documenting your past year as a family.
  • Start a tradition. Take an annual family photo, light a candle honoring your child’s birth family, read a favorite adoption book, or start some other meaningful family tradition to recognize this special day.
  • Make a favorite meal. Celebrate with your child’s favorite foods or a nice dinner out at his or her favorite restaurant. If you completed a transracial or international adoption, consider making a traditional dish to honor your child’s cultural heritage.
  • Host a celebration. Invite other friends and family members over for an adoption celebration. You could also invite other local adoptive families or parents who are interested in adoption or foster care and take it as an opportunity to spread adoption awareness.
  • Acknowledge loss. While your child’s adoption day is certainly a happy event for your family and something you want to celebrate, remember that your child may have mixed emotions, especially as he or she gets older. In many ways, adoption is bittersweet, and you should take time on this special day to remember your child’s birth family or birth culture and reflect on their life pre-adoption. Always be respectful of your child’s feelings and their wishes as you decide whether and how you would like to celebrate.

While adoption is a special and life-changing way of adding to your family, adoption day celebrations are not for everyone. Some families feel that a celebration would be insensitive because of the loss inherent in adoption, or that it would make their child feel different from his or her peers. As always, it is important to carefully consider your family’s personal circumstances and your child’s feelings as you talk about and celebrate adoption.

Even if you choose not to recognize your child’s adoption on a specific date every year, remember to take time to remind your child that he or she is loved, cherished, and an important piece that completes your family.

19
May

5 Ways to Help Your Adopted Child Develop a Strong Sense of Identity

Throughout childhood, and especially during adolescence, each of us begins forming a sense of who we are as individuals and as members of society. This is called identity development, and it is shaped by a variety of factors, from race and gender to hobbies and religious beliefs.

Two of the components that play a role in identity formation are genetics and family dynamics — which may complicate the process for adopted children. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, identity development may be more difficult for an adopted person with questions “such as why he or she was placed for adoption, what became of the birth parents, does he or she have siblings, and whether he or she resembles the birth parents in looks or in other characteristics.” If these questions go unanswered, it could lead to a less complete sense of self, which in turn can lead to lower self-esteem and other emotional issues.

While you may not be able to answer all of your child’s questions as adoptive parents if your adoption is less open, there are some things you can do to help them develop a positive self-identity. Here are five ways you can encourage your child through the identity development process:

  1. Give them options. As an adoptive family, your child may not always share your tastes and hobbies. When reasonable, allow your child to make choices about the foods they like to eat, the clothes they like to wear, and the things they like to do. Expose your child to a variety of opportunities and encourage them to pursue their individual interests. Ask them to teach you something new, and get involved in the activities they choose — by supporting the things that matter to them, you are encouraging them to be confident in their emerging identity.
  2. Recognize their strengths. Compliment your child’s natural abilities and celebrate their achievements, whether they are academic, artistic, athletic or otherwise. Suggest opportunities for your child to further explore his or her talents, even if they differ from your own.
  3. Seek out diversity. Surround your child with positive people from a variety of backgrounds. Develop relationships with racially and culturally diverse children and adults, as well as nontraditional families — and especially seek out other adoptive families. This inclusivity will give your child a sense of belonging while also illustrating that all people have value and that differences should be celebrated.
  4. Respect their birth parents. Remember that your child’s birth parents have contributed significantly to who your child is as a person. Experts agree that it is overwhelmingly beneficial to maintain a relationship with your child’s birth parents, but even in situations when this is not possible, you should always make your child’s birth parents an important part of your family’s conversations about adoption. Reinforce that adoption was a positive choice that your child’s birth mother made out of love, and tell your child how much you respect and admire her strength for choosing adoption.
  5. Talk and listen to your child. Talk positively and openly about adoption, as well as any other issues that may impact your child’s sense of identity. Give your child plenty of opportunities to ask questions and to express their own thoughts and feelings without making judgments. Constructive conversations like these will help your child develop a healthy self-esteem, as well as a positive view of adoption.

Ultimately, each person develops his or her sense of identity by discovering their interests, talents, passions and beliefs on their own — and your child is no exception. The best thing you can do for your child through this process is to be there for them; they will be more secure in their identity simply knowing that you love them and support them exactly as they are.

12
May

7 DIY Gifts from Kids to Birth Family

We are halfway through spring, and it has been full of wild weather! Warm days followed by torrential rains, and even snow in some places. Kids (and parents!) are desperate to get outside when possible. This year, however, there seems to be more indoor days than outdoor. A parent’s arsenal of entertainment for those cruddy days needs to be pretty big. Here’s where some arts and crafts activities come in handy.

While you are setting out all the art supplies, this is a good time to get a jump on homemade items that can be given as gifts. The holiday season has a way of sneaking up, so give your kids some fun craft projects to do ahead of time. Homemade gifts are a wonderful way to show people how much they mean to you and your family.

Homemade gifts are especially meaningful to birth families. If your birth family does not live nearby, send them one of these personal gifts to remind them how grateful you are:

  • Yearly photo album – at various times throughout the year, websites like Snapfish and Shutterfly offer low cost or even free 8×8 photo albums. Keep an eye out for these specials and create an album for your child’s birth family. These are very easy to create, and can be shipped directly to the recipient.
  • Handprint dish towels – this is an inexpensive, easy and practical gift that is darling! Plus, it is very easy to mail.
  • Hand-shaped clay ring/coin holder – this is so precious and more practical than the ashtray of years ago. This can easily be boxed up with bubble wrap for mailing.
  • Thumbprint magnets – another easy DIY project that is easy to ship. Add some artwork from your child, with a promise to send something new every month to display on the refrigerator.
  • Send a hug – here is something that can be replicated each year. Trace your child’s head and outstretched arms, let them decorate it, and fold it up for the mail. If you do this each year, you can see how big they’re getting.
  • Handprint/footprint LOVE canvas art – think the iconic LOVE sculpture with a juvenile twist, and overflowing with sentiment.
  • Create a coffee table book of artworkArtkive is a handy website and app that all parents need. Simply take a photo of your child’s original works of art and upload it to the app, noting the date and age. Through the website, you can order a bound book of all their masterpieces!

Even if the craft project didn’t turn out quite the way you’d imagined, it is always the thought that counts. Your birth family will be ever grateful.

 

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