The Ties That Bind
Rituals are the glue that binds a family together.
Rituals remind us to connect and celebrate. The special rituals we create reflect the love, comfort, and attachment that glue family members together. Our children relish rituals to celebrate the wonderful way our families are formed, such as coming-home ("gotcha day") celebrations, the creation of adoption lifebooks, and traditional tellings of "the day we met you." In the same way, activities that honor birth culture can create a stronger and more positive identity.
Involved from the Get-Go
Babies are constantly learning and making memories, so involve your infant or toddler in family rituals early on. Let him touch and see the adoption-journey photo album you're making for him. Tell him (and siblings) his adoption story over and over to create a new family ritual.
By surrounding your baby with family traditions, you show him that he belongs to a family and a society, and that he is and will forever be cherished.
And Baby Makes…a New Tradition
Any emotional, meaningful activity can become a cherished ritual. Along with Welcome Home day celebrations, try these:
- Start a lifebook for your baby, and add to it every year. Pick a regular time, e.g. the anniversary of her placement or finalization day, to read and discuss it.
- Say a blessing for your baby's birth family before meals or when you light holiday candles.
- Once a year, in your baby's name, donate something to an organization that supports adoption. Tell her you are doing this to honor her and to help others.
- Create a memento box. Start a collection of items, tokens, or pictures that represent your child's adoption and/or birth culture, and add to it regularly. Your child can draw or paint a picture or record a tape to add to it. Be creative!
- Celebrate Family Night. Set a night once a month to recognize the importance of family bonds. Activities could include a special dinner, games, birth-culture activities, looking through photo albums.
- Hand down a tradition. For example: "When I was little, I baked these Christmas cookies with my mom. Now we do it together."
Fran Eisenman is a family counselor specializing in adoption. Dr. JoAnne Solchany is an assistant professor at the University of Washington.
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