With the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season, making sure your child’s birth family isn’t left out can sometimes be a challenge. Open adoption is a beautiful blessing, but can sometimes add extra stress to the holidays. I am a giver. My personality has a hard time saying no to anyone, so I often feel very much overwhelmed and then run down after the holidays because I don’t want to disappoint anyone or miss any special events. My husband and I both have parents that divorced and remarried, adding even more family to each side. We each have two sides with separate traditions to incorporate into each holiday. I too was married once before and share a son with my first husband. Then add in open adoption and it’s another branch of our family.
We have become good at creative celebrations. We are so lucky that new traditions have begun forming as the next generation adds new dynamics. We have been able to extend the holidays to alternative dates in order to accommodate everyone. Each year we host a dinner at our home on either the Saturday before or after the actual holiday. This way we can still attend our grandparent’s/parent’s/aunt’s celebration but also include our son’s birth family in the holiday by developing a new tradition. Unless your family has a direct connection with open adoption or has had adoption training, sometimes the relationship can feel awkward to family and friends. They may be nervous to meet the birth family or worried they will say the wrong thing. Some family members may feel too awkward to attend a gathering. The birth family may be uneasy about meeting your family, so here are some tips to help make everything go smoothly:
1. Prepare your family for the birth family’s presence.
Let people know that the birth family will be attending and share your excitement about seeing them. This will help family members prepare and work through their nervousness.
2. Ask your family if they have any questions.
Ask family and friends if they have any concerns or need any help with adoption terminology. Also ask if there are topics that are off limits before the event; this can be a great opportunity for education and comforting.
3. Proper introductions.
Make sure to introduce everyone. Even if they have met before, if it’s been awhile, reintroduce everyone so that no one has to fumble around forgotten names or relationships. Your introduction serves as both an ice breaker and a conversation starter.
4. Lead by example.
Your relationship and warmth toward the birth family will lead the rest of your family and friends to act in the same manner. But also make sure you spend time with all your guests!
5. Prepare the birth family.
By letting the birth family know how many people will be attending and how they are related to you, they will arrive feeling prepared. I like to give them a little information about each person attending, so when they meet them they already feel like they somewhat know them. While we don’t celebrate every holiday with the birth family, we try to choose a few each year to spend together.
With several years of holidays including the birth family under our belt now, our family and friends have grown to love them as much as we do. They look forward to spending time together and it’s no longer awkward. I am thrilled that our whole family embraces each other. We come together with one common denominator… Love. It may certainly be easier to segregate the holidays completely and spend separate time with our son’s birth family, but we love that they are now part of our family. I like to think it is important for his birth family to see our son in his environment, surrounded by other family members who adore him and that he adores. I think that is a positive affirmation to the huge responsibility they entrusted to us in raising him.
How do you make sure your children’s birth families are included in special occasions or holidays?