Involving Your Child in Birth Family Updates
Beth Stahl, LGSW, Domestic Case Specialist
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! A time for baking cookies, playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace, and for many adoptive families, it’s time to send updates to their children’s birth parents. While many families enjoy sharing their child’s story with his or her birth parents, the actual process of creating and sending an update can be anxiety provoking. You may have questions like: What do I write about? Should I include photos of our entire family, or just my child? Should I disclose to my child that I am sending this to his or her birth parents?
These are wonderful, thoughtful questions that many adoptive families ask, and we are here to help answer them. Here are some tips to help you create a great update for your child’s birth parents, and a great experience for you and your child.
1. Turn this potentially stressful task into a fun family activity. Like baking cookies together, birth parent updates can be a special holiday tradition that you can share with your child. Ask your child to help you choose photos for his or her birth parents. This can be a fun year-end activity, as you look over your family photos and recall the great times you’ve had together over the past twelve months. It’s also a great way to check in with your child about his or her birth family. When you find a photo you particularly like, say something like, “I really love this picture. Do you think Faith [if your child’s birth mother’s name is Faith] would like this one? I bet she is going to be so excited to see how much you have grown! I wonder what Faith does for the holidays – do you ever wonder what she’s doing?” Some kids won’t want to talk very much about their birth parents, but you may be surprised about what they do share with you. Kids think about their birth families more than you may think, and it’s a good idea to keep reminding them that they can always come to you to share their feelings.
2. Ask your child to draw a picture, write a short letter, or pick out a gift for his or her birth family. Having your son or daughter add a personal touch can be fun for you, and meaningful for birth parents. The letter and photos you send generally come from you – the parents. Something as small as a “signature” from a child can be special for birth parents because is from their birth child.
3. Include photos of your child in context – playing, laughing, and crying. Your son’s birth parents think he is adorable, just like you do. And just like you, they would rather see him in action than see five shots of him in one pose, all alone, in an ambiguous location. Use photos to show your child’s birth parents what your child is really like. Birth parents report enjoying photos of families, friends, favorite places, and pets. If you found it adorable that your daughter and the family dog went out in the rain one day and came back looking like mud monsters, chances are her birth mother will too.
4. Share your child’s creative masterpieces. Kids make tons of crafts at school during the holiday season. Instead of tossing your daughter’s art in the trash or recycling bin after it spends a couple of weeks on your refrigerator, consider passing it along to her birth parents. It’s a little thing that could mean a lot.
We hope these tips will be helpful to you as you prepare your birth parent update this holiday season. Happy Holidays!