Birth mothers of children who have been adopted or who are in foster care play a significant role in their children’s lives.
Regardless of how many years, days, or moments they spent with their children after they were born, birth mothers are, and will always be, a part of their children’s identity. For this reason, adoptive and foster parents need to honor their children’s birth mother. To speak or behave in a negative manner toward a child’s birth mother may create disruptions in relationships and may send unintended messages of disapproval of the child’s own identity. Adoptive and foster parents must be willing to privately recognize and process their own feelings or biases towards their child’s birth mother. Doing so will help provide a safe environment in which their child can explore the complexities of his or her emotions and identity in your presence. Remember to speak with age-appropriate honesty and openness when discussing birth parents with your child. It is always okay to say “I don’t know.”
On a practical level, when considering how to honor birth parents, there are clearly many limitations—the largest of which may be that these individuals are oftentimes unknown or in a far-away country. The desires of the birth mother and the desires of the child may also limit what interactions are possible. In foster care, approval from child protective services or approval from caseworkers may be necessary. Many of the suggestions given here are dependent on factors such as those listed above. As you consider how to honor your child’s birth mother, it may also be important to consider other motherly figures in the child’s life such as a grandmother, prior caregiver, or previous foster parent.
Our Crossings team at Lifeline Children’s Services helped to create this list of suggestions of how you can honor your child’s birth mother around Mother’s Day and throughout the year. Remember, Mother’s Day is often a difficult time for many birth mothers. It is important that you always celebrate her with sensitivity. Show your child that you value her and value her contribution to your child’s life; whenever possible, show her as well.
10 Ways to Honor Your Child’s Birth Mother If You Have Contact with Her:
- Honor scheduled meetings or phone calls with your child’s birth mother.
- Send updates as agreed upon during adoption/placement process.
- Write a thank you note or send a card to her.
- Help your child make a craft, draw a picture, bake homemade items, or make a Happy Mother’s Day sign to send to her.
- Have your child choose words to make an acrostic from the birth mother’s name or the name he or she calls her.
- Send short videos of your child to his or her birth mother.
- Send flowers, a card, a photo album, a framed picture of the child, a gift, etc. via mail or case worker.
- Send newsletters with brief write-ups and pictures of “firsts” or “currents.” For example, “This month I went on my very first trip to the zoo. My favorite animal was the elephant. I laughed the most at the seals.” Or, “This month we went to the zoo and my favorite thing to do was ride the train. My favorite animal this time was the grizzly bear.”
- Arrange a time to meet with your child’s birth mother: Meet her for lunch; invite her to church with you; meet at a park; and perhaps prepare a “visit box” of special things the birth mother and child can do together (color a picture, work a puzzle, make a craft, play a game, etc).
- Plan a special activity that the birth mother and child can do together: Meet at a church gym, fun center, painting place, etc.
10 Ways to Honor Your Child’s Birth Mother If You Do Not Have Contact with Her:
- Speak with honesty (in age-appropriate ways) with your child about his birth mother, acknowledging her existence and her role in your child’s story and history.
- Plant a tree or flowers in her honor.
- Do a butterfly or balloon release in her honor.
- Assist your child with writing a poem or drawing a picture in honor of her birth mother. Your child can frame it and hang it in her room if she desires.
- Encourage your child to write her a thank you note (just to keep).
- Read a children’s book that honors birth families.
- Talk about her: It can be as simple as making a comment like “I bet your birth mother had pretty brown eyes like you.”
- Pray with your child about his birth mother. Each day during the week of Mother’s Day plan something different to pray about for her.
- Help your child create a life book and read it together every Mother’s Day. Include a page or more in your child’s life book about her birth mother.
- Explore your child’s birth country customs related to moms/women (as age-appropriate to share).
By Whitney White, International Education Counselor and Allison Fuqua, Education Development Coordinator
Lifeline cares deeply about the birth parents we serve. Whether they are in the process of walking through their pregnancy or have made an adoption plan for their child, we believe strongly in holistic ministry for the families we serve. For more on Lifeline’s ministry to birth parents, visit our website HERE.