CELEBRATING YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH COUNTRY AT CHRISTMAS
As the holidays begin to draw near, opportunities will come to help families celebrate a child’s birth country in special ways. Acknowledging a child’s birth country can create moments of safety to discuss feelings of being adopted, their birth families, and of grief they may experience by not living in their country of origin anymore. Also, these opportunities can help develop a sense of pride in his or her birth country. When families speak positively about a child’s birth country, the child sees respect for where he or she was born. Engaging positively in this way affirms your child and his or her history.
- Display artwork or a nativity set from your child’s country in your home.
- Learn seasonal phrases like “Merry Christmas” or a traditional song from your child’s birth country as a family.
- Pray for the country and the people in it!
- Find books that explain cultural traditions from around the world.
- Let your child hang an ornament from or representing their birth country on your Christmas tree.
- Try to incorporate a holiday tradition and/or prepare a holiday meal or side dish during holiday celebrations. Research or ask local expatriates from your child’s country about holiday traditions and meals.
- Befriend adults and families from your child’s birth country and invite them over to teach your family how to cook a traditional holiday meal.
- If your child’s birth country doesn’t celebrate Christmas, consider incorporating one of their other traditions, customs, festivals, or foods into your own celebrations. For example, playing traditional music while baking cookies or eating a meal may help to celebrate your child’s birth country in this way.
Be creative and be willing to think outside of the box. New traditions or foods may seem different at first, but remember that different isn’t wrong. Your new traditions may be some of your family’s most favorite in years to come.
HONORING YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH FAMILY AT CHRISTMAS
Many opportunities will also arise during the holidays for children to think about their birth families. Recognizing that your child may be considering their birth families and possibly grieving that loss will help you to connect with your child and walk with them through their grief. It can also encourage your child in furthering open communication throughout the coming years, as you speak positively and honestly about the people who will always be a part of who your child is.
On a practical level, there are limitations when honoring a child’s birth family, the largest of which may be that these individuals are unknown or in a far-away country. The desires of the birth family and the desires of the child may also limit what interactions are possible. In foster care, approval from child protective services or approval from case workers involved may be necessary. Many of the suggestions given here are dependent on such factors.
If You Do Not Have Contact with Them
- Speak with honesty (in age appropriate ways) with your child about his or her birth family, acknowledging their existence and their role in your child’s history.
- Talk about your child’s birth family when opportunities arise. Show your child that you are a safe place to ask questions and discuss feelings, even if those emotions are grief-laden.
- Hang an ornament on your tree in their honor.
- Encourage your child to write a story or poem or draw a picture in their honor. Your child can display this as part of his or her own Christmas decorations in the family room or in his or her own room.
- Allow your child to write them a Christmas card (to keep, pack away, or dispose of later).
- Pray with your child about his or her birth family. Each day or week during Advent, pray something specific for the birth family.
If You Do Have Contact with Them
In addition to the suggestions above, having contact with a birth family can open avenues for more personal interaction. Use the following options as a starting place for honoring birth family members that you are able to contact:
- Send a Christmas card to them.
- Help your child make a gift, draw a picture, or bake homemade items to send to them.
- Send Christmas flowers, a card, a photo album, a framed picture of your child, a gift, etc. via mail or case worker.
- Arrange a time to meet with them: meet for lunch, invite them to church with you, meet at a park, and perhaps prepare a “visit box” of special things the birth family and child can do together (color a picture, work a puzzle, make a craft, play a game, etc).
Remember that birth families of children who have been adopted or who are in foster care continue to play a significant role in children’s lives, regardless of how many years, days, or moments they spent with their child once he or she was born. Be sensitive to your child’s needs and desires as you let him or her speak into how to honor his or her birth family.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Lifeline’s Journey Magazine.