From Thanksgiving to the end of the year, everyone’s focus is on family. Even TV commercials show happy families celebrating the holidays together. As a result, this season can be painful for birth parents, especially if their contact with their children is minimal. And parents in open adoptions deliberate over what and how much to share with them. Will detailed information be painful — or reassuring — to the birth mother?
What you should keep in mind is that your child’s birth mother is a relative. You don’t have to love her, and she doesn’t have to be your best friend (as with some of your other relatives!) — but you should think of her as an extended family member.
This is what open adoption is about. Knowing that your child is happy will help the birth mother continue to feel good about the difficult decision she made however many years ago. And the holiday season is an especially important time to let her know you are thinking about her.
What to Share
How can you let your child’s birth mother know she’s in your thoughts? The type of contact will depend on the relationship you have maintained over the years. If you have been in regular contact, whether by mail, phone, or visits with the family, your child’s birth mother will expect a detailed update or a get-together. If your contact has been more limited, I’m sure she’ll appreciate a letter and a photo.
Your child’s birth mother will enjoy hearing the details about your child’s life — who he is now — his personality, his interests, his accomplishments. Parents might worry that details would be painful or would make the birth mother regret that she placed her child for adoption.
The reality is that the adoption plan was made out of love. She chose not to parent him, but she will always love him. So go ahead and tell her about the wonderful things your child does — that your son won the spelling bee at his school last year, for example, or that he’s learning to play the guitar.
You might ask your child what she’d like to share in a holiday letter to her birth mother. At older ages, many children write their own letters to be enclosed in the holiday cards sent to the birth family. Or your child may want to draw a picture to send with your letter.
By including her in this project, you gain an opportunity to talk with her again about her adoption story. You can remind her of the permanence of your family, as well as the love of her birth mother.
A 10-year-old I know, David, doesn’t visit with his birth mother, but he enjoys writing his own letter to her at holiday time. This year he talked about his accomplishments on the soccer field, and he asked her what her favorite sport is.
Many families also exchange gifts with their children’s birth parents at holiday time — as they do with other family members. If you have a close relationship with the birth family, consider a gift exchange. To young children, a gift from a birth parent is concrete evidence of her love; it attests to the fact that she thinks of them often.
Katie, an eight-year-old child I know, loves the teddy bear her birth mother gave her last Christmas. The bear sits on Katie’s bookshelf, and she tells visitors that it is from her birth mother, Susie. If you wanted to send a gift to your son’s birth mother, she’d surely cherish a framed photograph of him.
Whatever level of communication you have with your child’s birth mother, the holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to talk with your child about family and about all the people in his life who love him.