Most parents want to have some kind of celebration following finalization. After all, you’ve waited a long time to get here. Take cues from your child as to what he or she can handle that day.
For some kids, it is a very sad day, even though you are excited. They may view it as the loss of their birth family. One parent told me that her daughter felt she couldn’t love her birth mother anymore, once she was adopted. Be prepared for these feelings. Your celebration may need to be put on hold until your child is able to handle it.
Anniversaries can also be very hard on kids. It is a reminder of the loss that they have suffered. There are many parents who see changes in their children near the anniversary of specific events in their lives. Adoption day, removal from birth home, moving into your home … all of these can trigger a child’s emotions. Kids are very astute with timing. They don’t need to look at calendars to know when things happened. It could be the time of year; maybe they were removed at the beginning of the school year, or near a holiday. There are plenty of external clues to trigger a child.
That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t celebrate with your child and build happy memories, but your celebration may need to be more low-key than you expect.
Let me share some ideas from what we do in our home.
Birthdays are a small celebration with just the people living in our home. Breakfast in bed for the birthday person, their choice of dinner for the evening, and of course, a cake. Gifts are kept small, but meaningful, for children. We tried having big parties with lots of presents, but it was too much stimulation for our son. He didn’t know how to handle it, since it was not something he had in his birth family.
Adoption Day (or “Gotcha Day.”) Our son chooses something he would like to do, or someplace he would like to go, and that is what we do (within reason of course). He has Mom and Dad’s attention for the entire day. We have gone to children’s museums, movies, amusement parks, or just to the lakefront to watch the boats.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can also be very difficult for kids. Many parents have chosen to honor both birth parent and adoptive parent on that day … being grateful to the birth parents for having your child– and for your having that child in your life now. That’s not to say that the day should be centered on the child. You have earned your day, but acknowledging the birth parents’ place in your lives can help to ease your child’s sadness.