The holiday season is often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year… and for some, it is. For others, however, the holidays can be stressful, stirring up complicated emotions or re-igniting challenging relationships. If you are trying to navigate an adoption arrangement this holiday season, you too may be feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Whether you adopted a child, made an adoption plan for your child, or you are considering either of the two, you may have questions like:
- Should I reach out to the birth family/adoptive family over the holidays?
- Should I send gifts to the birth or adoptive parents?
- How should I approach the holidays as a newly adoptive parent or birth mom?
- If we have an open adoption, should I arrange an in-person celebration?
The answers to these questions will vary, depending on everyone’s unique situation and open adoption arrangement. However, we can help guide you with some expert advice from our open adoption agency professionals.
Remember that the holidays are all about family—and adoption is, too. Adoption is about providing a child with a stable and loving family. Open adoption, in particular, is all about connecting families together. Read on for advice on how to navigate your open adoption during the holidays this year.
Three Tips for Navigating Open Adoption
1. First, Focus on What Matters Most.
The holidays can be a hectic time. It is easy to get caught up in the trivial things that the season may bring, and even easier to get caught up in the many emotions that come along with it. Whether you are an adoptive parent, a birth parent, or you are about to become either of the two, it is best to keep your focus on what matters most during this festive time of year: Family.
If you are a newly adoptive parent, cherish this time with your child. Focus on your child’s needs and base your schedule around what is best for the little one. This includes visits and communication with your child’s birth mother. Try to remember that this is a challenging time for her, too. So, it is important to be sensitive to her needs, but do what is best for your child.
If you are planning an in-person visit with your child’s birth mother, for example, be sure to plan it around your child’s nap schedule and be mindful of meal/snack times and lengths of these visits. Young children thrive on structure, so the more you can stick to the regular routine, the happier everyone in the household will be. This advice could be applied to any celebrations this year.
If you are a birth parent who recently made an adoption plan, and this is your first holiday season since giving birth, give yourself grace and surround yourself with loved ones. The holidays can be an extra emotional time for those who have made the loving choice to place their child for adoption. Be gentle to yourself and try to focus on the positives and the many benefits that adoption can offer.
If you have an open adoption arrangement, you may find peace in writing your child (or child’s family) a letter or sending a card with holiday wishes. You may even connect with the family or your adoption agency, to receive some updated photos of your child over the holiday season. This often helps birth mothers feel peace of mind, seeing and knowing their child is doing well.
2. Be Prepared, But Flexible.
The holiday season is busy for almost everyone. Try to approach the season with an open mind, and be ready to adjust as needed.
If you are a new adoptive parent, for example, you will want to be prepared for whatever you may need during in-person reunions and celebrations. These moments can be uncomfortable for a child – for several reasons. Your child may not like the travel involved, or the unfamiliar setting. He or she may be grappling with an emotional or developmental change. Whatever the reason or circumstance, be prepared. Bring a comforting blanket or toy, bring plenty of snacks and changes of clothes. Once you have reached your destination, be flexible for your child’s sake, and never force him or her to hug another person, or get up close. As mentioned in the last tip, focus on your child’s needs and what they need to be comfortable.
If you are a birth parent and planning to see your child in person, be open to whatever your child needs. Try to keep in mind that these visits can be challenging for a young child, too. If your child does not want to give you a hug or speak with you, try not to take it personally. Children often need time to warm up to those who are not in their tiny bubble. They may withdraw and even cry when they are brought to a place that is unfamiliar. It does not mean that they will not warm up to you. Give it time and try to be patient. Remember: You are already a great mom! You made a loving and selfless decision to give your child the best life possible. The visits will get more comfortable over time.
No matter your place in the adoption triad, it is also important to stay adaptable during the holidays. With viruses, including COVID-19, still going around, it is possible that in-person meetings get cancelled or celebrations get postponed. It may be that a family is not comfortable with getting together this year, and would prefer a video call or Zoom chat instead. Try to be understanding of the unique circumstances and anxieties we are all facing this year, and try to remain flexible if there is a change of plans.
3. Lean In and Have Hope.
While navigating open adoption and the holidays can be tricky, it is not impossible. In fact, you may experience more joy than you anticipated.
If you are a new birth parent, you may feel that the holidays are challenging. There are, however, some beautiful moments to experience if you leave yourself open to them. In an open adoption arrangement, you can typically give your child’s adoptive family a call or send them a message if you desire to. Choosing to reach out is often a positive choice. Just as you decided to make an adoption plan, you can choose to find the happy moments during the holiday season, too. Go to visits with low expectations, but hopeful, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Choose to be thankful for the time you have with your child’s adoptive family. Choose to rejoice in the open adoption arrangement, knowing that your child is safe and that you will get to see your child grow over the years. Choose to focus on the good that is coming from the open adoption arrangement, and you may find that the holiday season is a little happier than you expected.
Gift Ideas for Adoptive Families & Birth Parents
One part of the holidays and open adoption that many people may stress over? Gift giving. While exchanging gifts can be a wonderful way to express gratitude, appreciation, and love, it should not be a source of stress. Remember: It is the thought that counts.
If you are a new adoptive parent, you may want to give something special to your child’s birth mother. This gift does not have to cost a lot of money to be meaningful. A heartfelt letter and photo of your child are enough. If you want to make it a keepsake, consider an engraved frame, Christmas ornament, or baby’s footprints in a card or framed piece of cardstock. Click here for more gift ideas for birth mothers.
If you are a new birth parent, you may want to give a special gift to your child’s adoptive parent(s) and/or your child. A framed photo of yourself during pregnancy can make for a meaningful decorative element in your child’s bedroom. This can serve as a reminder of the bond you two will always share, and it can also give your child’s adoptive family something tangible as your child grows and learns about his/her beautiful story. You could also pass something down to your child, such as a necklace or special family keepsake. If you would rather purchase something special, consider something that can be put on display every year during the holidays, such as a snow globe or star.
Contact your adoption agency for more gift ideas and guidance with this gift exchange. At Adoptions With Love, we receive gifts from birth mothers for children and from adoptive families for birth mothers, and help to facilitate delivering these gifts between families.
Navigating open adoption and the holidays can be daunting, but with some patience, flexibility, and planning, it can be a joyous time of year. We wish you all a happy and safe holiday season.
If you would like to learn more about open adoption, contact Adoptions With Love today. We can help guide you through this life-changing journey, whether you want to grow your family through adoption or are considering making an adoption plan for your child.
Call us any time of day, any day of the week at 800-722-7731, text us confidentially at 617-777-0072, or contact us online.