An open adoption is a unique opportunity for a child to grow up with a wide-reaching network of love and support. Of course, it takes some delicate managing by both the adoptive and biological parents, and this is never more apparent than during the holidays.
Every open adoption is different – in each situation, the parents have set their own guidelines and boundaries as to how the relationship will evolve. Within those guidelines, you may have specific details about the holidays. As you start to think about it, here are a few things to keep in mind:
The Child Comes First
What sort of holiday experience is best for the child? Maybe it is taxing for the birth mother to always travel to the adoptive home for Thanksgiving, for example, but is it in the child’s best interest to travel across the state or the country when she only gets a couple of days off school and has some homework to complete before Monday? No matter the situation, the child’s well-being and happiness should be the first and most important priority.
Before making any holiday arrangements, ask yourselves what works best for the child.
Make Decisions About Gifts Ahead of Time
It can cause anxiety and resentment if a birth mother shows up with extravagant gifts while the adoptive parents provide a few small ones, or vice versa. It’s never appropriate to give the child a gift like a smartphone or a puppy without first consulting the adoptive parents. In the end, their decision is the one that stands because they are raising the child in their household.
Talk with each other about the sorts of gifts you’d like to give this year and decide what’s appropriate based on the child’s age and needs.
Make a Plan for Your Visits
Whether or not any holiday visits occur on the actual holidays, make a plan about how to spend your time together. Showing up and waiting to see what will happen is awkward for the adults and the child. Decide if you’ll spend quality time at home or go on an adventure.
Don’t make the child do anything he or she doesn’t want to. For example, if it’s been awhile since he’s seen his birth parents, he might feel shy around them and not want to play with them right away. Even though that can be frustrating and emotional for both biological and adoptive parents, remember the first point – it’s about the child. Take a deep breath, and release any expectations you have about how you’d like the visit to go.
Develop a Tradition
The biological and adoptive parents each have their own special traditions, and the child will be mostly involved with those of the adoptive parents. If it makes sense to incorporate some of the birth parent’s traditions into your celebrations, do so; however, it’s also fun to develop a tradition all your own between the child, the adoptive parents, and the biological parents – a Secret Santa gift exchange, a special meal, or a traditional gift (like a new ornament or a new pair of pajamas every year) can be great bonding experiences for everyone. These special moments can help bring you all together as a family.
Talk to Other Guests
If you’re all coming together with additional extended family and friends, make sure your other guests know how to address the adoption and relate to the biological parents. This should be a matter of common sense and courtesy, but sometimes people don’t understand your adoptive situation. The adoptive parents can explain to their guests ahead of time about using positive adoption language, for example, and let them know the names by which the child calls the biological parents.
There’s no “right” way to do the holidays within your open adoption, there’s only your way. Enjoy your time together. If you have any questions, contact us. We can share some examples that have worked in other open adoptions that might give you some ideas for how to manage your holidays.
Also, as the holidays draw nearer, we are all reminded that it’s a time of giving. The Tomorrow’s Hope Donation Center and Fund was established to assist birth parents and children of adoption throughout the state. We are always in need of donations. Please consider assisting in our effort to help those that need it.