The holidays are a time for giving, and with the season quickly approaching, your head may be swirling with ideas of what gifts to give the ones you love. You may be eyeing a candle to give to your best friend, a baking set to give to your new sister-in-law, or a tie to give to your brother. But this year there may be a new, important, member to add to your Christmas list – your child’s birthparents.
Thinking of what gift is appropriate to give to someone who has given you the opportunity to become a parent may be confusing. You may wonder if you should send them more pictures, a gift card, or a meaningful keepsake such as your child’s first shoes or blanket. While all of these gifts are great gift ideas to give to a birthparent, the most important gift that you can give a birthparent during the holiday season and going into the New Year is to keep the promises you made during your adoption process.
It can be easy as an adoptive parent to get caught up in the adoption process and to set unrealistic communication goals. Before placement you may set a goal to keep contact with your child’s birthparents once a month and then realize after placement, when you’re welcoming home a new baby that your life becomes too hectic to keep up with the promises you’ve made, especially during such a busy time of the year.
Be Clear About What Open Communication Entails
Many adoptive parents are uninformed and have the best intentions when they create a plan for communication with their child’s birthparents. They may quickly agree to keep their child’s adoption “open” with the birthparents but may not fully discuss what this means. The adoptive parent’s ideas of an open adoption may be monthly email updates and visits on holidays while a birthparent’s idea of openness may be weekly text updates, monthly visits, and visits during holidays.
Be specific about your intentions for communication at the beginning of your adoption process. Do not simply say that you will “keep in contact” but specify what keeping in contact means to you. Does contact to you mean letting birthparents know if there’s an emergency or big event? Or does it mean you want to include your child’s birthparents as extended family members and would feel comfortable making impromptu plans to hang out with them on the weekends? To alleviate any confusion and to avoid accidentally breaking promises due to miscommunication, make sure you state your intentions clearly. When hammering all the details out, this is the time to lean on your social workers to help guide you through the process and ask them for the feedback and suggestions.
Decide When Open Communication Will Begin
After you and your child’s birthparents are on the same page about what openness entails in your adoption make sure that you make plans as to when your communication will begin.
Will there be immediate open communication after the adoption is finalized or will you need a period to welcome home your child home and adjust to your new lifestyle? If you are a new parent there may be a lot for you to learn and there may be enough stress in your life as you are mastering these new skills without factoring adoption into the equation.
Many new parents can find the learning curve to be stressful, but most parents do not have to explain when they need space and alone time with their child. As an adoptive parent you will not only have to notify close friends and family, but you will have to let your child’s birthparents know that you need time alone as well.
You may experience feelings of guilt or fear hurting your child’s birthparents feelings, but it is important to keep the lines of communication open and to explain to them what you need. Chances are that they’ll understand and may need the time to adjust as well as they settle into their new roles.
Set specific dates with your child’s birthparents so that they are not left up in the air wondering when they will hear from you. If something comes up later you can adjust the date or time, but let them know that you are doing your best to honor your commitments during a hectic time in your life.
The Holidays Are a Challenging Time
No matter how much planning ahead you do, the first holiday is going to be challenging for both you and your child’s birthparents. Even if your child’s birthparents respect your wishes for space and do not initiate contact with you per your request, that doesn’t mean that they are not thinking about and grieving their child. Despite how comfortable they may feel with your adoption arrangement the first holiday is going to be an emotional time for birthparents.
If you feel the urge to honor your relationship with your child’s birth parents through a special gift then do not hesitate do give one to them. But the most significant gift that you can give is the gift of staying true to your commitments and keeping your promises. Establishing open communication and trust with your child’s birthparents will help to build a solid foundation for your relationship with them throughout the holidays and for the many years to come.