4 Tips for Birth and Adoptive Parents

Whether this is your first holiday season after placement or you’re an open adoption veteran, the holidays are all about family — and that includes birth and adoptive family!

Some of this will depend on the openness of your adoption and the type of relationship you have in that adoption, but these are four things you should generally keep in mind this holiday season:

1. Annual letters and photos are important for everyone

For many adoptive families, the holidays are the time of year when they choose to send a long letter and a stack of new photos to their child’s birth family. It’s a good time to do it — it’s easy to remember, and you’re usually sending out family holiday cards around that time anyway. Never forget how important on-time letters and physical photos are to birth families, even if you don’t receive a response. Regular updates mean so much, especially in relationships that have less-frequent communication.

But young adoptees and their parents also enjoy receiving similar holiday letters from birth families, when they can! Updates and photos of biological siblings, birth grandparents and more can all be a nice way to keep your two families connected, even if you don’t or can’t visit very often. These are things that adoptees often treasure as much as you do.

2. Don’t underestimate how busy the holiday season can be

If you both have time in your schedules to arrange a visit, that’s great! But try to be understanding if one half of your partnership isn’t able to make a visit work this year as they juggle multiple family Christmases, traveling and other commitments. Asking well in advance if you can put a visit on the calendar is something to keep in mind for next year.

And if you still want to get in touch around the holidays but you can’t squeeze a visit into your busy lives, schedule a phone call or Skype session!

3. If you send gifts, don’t let it be a source of stress

Some birth parents send children a gift to open at Christmas. Some adoptive parents like to send the birth family a gift from themselves, or something their child made special.

These exchanges are unique to each relationship, and are by no means obligatory. Not everyone chooses to send gifts, and that’s absolutely fine. Do whatever feels right to your relationship. However, we do recommend staying consistent with whatever you choose to do, so children know what to expect each year around this time.

Not sure whether or not you should send a gift (or what to send)? You can check out some of our guides for ideas, ask each other, or ask your former adoption specialist.

4. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and try to be consistent

This is also the best piece of general advice for anyone who is new to an open adoption. Especially for the sake of the adoptee, you should never make a promise you can’t keep, and whatever you do commit to, you should try to be consistent.

For example, promising to have an annual visit around the holidays is probably not realistic for either of you if you live several states apart. But video chatting every Christmas Eve or sending a special ornament every year without fail is something that your child can learn to expect and look forward to.

Even small annual traditions between birth and adoptive families, like a phone call or exchanging letters, provides children with a sense of security. This is another important reason why birth and adoptive families can’t break those promises, whatever they decide to do.

The holidays can be stressful and emotional sometimes, to be sure. But they’re also a lot of fun, and they give us an opportunity to remind friends and family how much we appreciate and love one another. The same goes for birth and adoptive families! How do you plan on letting one another know that you’re grateful to be in each other’s’ lives this holiday season?