Christmas can be a season full of joyous family gatherings. If your family was built by adoption, some of these gatherings may include members of your children’s birth families. Whether your adoption is open or not, Christmas is a great time to give some thought to ways that you can honor your child’s birth family. Here are a few ideas:

Connect if you can.

Maybe you will have the opportunity to visit with members of your child’s birth family this holiday season. If so, embrace it.  Even if your child struggles in the aftermath of visits, make an effort to connect in some way. If visits aren’t possible, perhaps there are other ways that you can connect—through sending a homemade gift, photos, or a simple text letting them know that you are thinking of them.

Speak their names.

“Big days” often trigger lots of feelings and memories for kids from hard places. And there’s hardly a bigger day all year than Christmas. Let your children know that you are open to talking about their birth families if it feels right to them. In my house, it sometimes feels like a big exhale when I say something like, “You know, Christmas is always happy and sad for me. I wish (birth family members) could be here to celebrate with us.”

Make them part of your holiday rituals.

My daughter and I like to share special “secret” rituals that are meaningful to us, but mostly undetected by everyone else. Perhaps your child is similar . . . maybe you could make or buy an ornament that reminds them of their birth family and hang it on your tree. Or perhaps you could have a special candle that you light when you are thinking about your child’s birth family.

Love our children well.

I think one of the best ways that I can honor my children’s birth families is by loving our children well. This means being in tune with their emotions as much as I can and helping to set them up for success. In our house, we can get easily overstimulated by all the frenzy of the holiday season, so I need to be intentional about building in plenty of downtime for us to unwind and recover from all the excitement. Loving my children well at Christmas time means keeping our eating and sleeping schedules as predictable as possible and making space for feelings. Kids will likely feel conflicted because they are both excited and sad (and possibly experiencing many other emotions at the same time). They need to know all of these feelings are okay. Honoring my children’s birth families means that I let my children know that it’s okay to be happy. And sad. And angry. And excited. And confused. And that I love them well and parent them wisely through all of these emotions.

Will your holiday include gatherings with your child’s birth family? What are ways that you honor your child’s birth family at Christmas and throughout the year?