Should families celebrate their child’s adoption day? This seems to be a heated topic of discussion. Do you celebrate the “gotcha day,” or do you let the day pass without mention?

Does your child know the date of their adoption? Does your child anticipate the day and have expectations of some sort of celebration or recognition?

Some people feel that the adoption day ought to be celebrated each year, similar to how we celebrate birthdays. Others feel strongly that celebrating adoption sends the wrong message since adoption begins with loss (the loss of birth family).

Should families celebrate? Or should families let the day pass unspoken? How do we know what to do if we are just facing this anniversary for the first time?

Here is the thing…each family handles this day differently. And that is okay! Adoption is so unique and individual that there is no right or wrong in how you choose to recognize the adoption day.

In my home, my two youngest were adopted almost exactly one year apart to the day. It also happens to be around Valentine’s Day. I like to refer to this time as “Love Week” in our home. Both of my boys know they were adopted during this week. I don’t do any individual party or celebration though. There are extra treats around, and I probably feel extra generous. It is a wonderful time for our family. However, we don’t make a big deal about the days, we don’t eat cake, decorate the house, or invite others to celebrate “Love Week” with us. We take a low-key type of approach where we know it is happening, but it is acknowledged quietly and with little fanfare.

I know other families celebrate with large parties, similar to birthday parties. Friends and family are invited for food, cake, and fun. The day is celebrated as the day they became a family and is treated as a family event.

The takeaway here is that the decision on what to do is a family decision. There is no real right or wrong way to handle this anniversary. If you celebrate big, good for you. If you feel that celebrating is inappropriate, and you don’t make a fuss, also good for you! However, as a community, we must recognize the individuality of adoption and not shame each other for our choices.

As parents, we need to know if our children will respond well to celebrating their adoptions. Some kids are adopted as infants and may not remember anything about their adoption. Other kids are adopted as older children and can recall sitting in a courtroom with the judge on the day of their adoption.

I find that as my children age, I am leaving things more and more up to them. Adoption is talked about openly. As our “Love Week” approaches, I have asked them if they want anything special for the occasion. So far, the big request has been a fast food meal. Should the kids ever ask for a big party for the occasion, I would happily comply. If they continue to be happy acknowledging the day with an extra hug, and some chicken nuggets, I am good with that as well.

I think sometimes families get caught up in trying to do things “right.” There are so many opinions on what that may be that there is no way to please everyone. The adoption community is a place of many opinions that vary so drastically. People do not have to agree, and we sometimes forget that.

We are each on our own individual journey. No two adoptions are the same. Nobody has the same story or the same circumstances. Each journey is so unique, and we need to remember that. What works for your family may not be appropriate for another family. We all need to practice being less judgemental of each other. While we may all have an opinion on adoption-related topics, there is no real “right” answer or way to do things. As strongly as you may feel, another family may feel just as strongly that the opposite is true.

While we currently don’t have a large celebration, I am not opposed to doing so. Should my kids ever ask to have a large party, I will happily do my best Tori Spelling party planning impression (oh no, did I just age myself with this reference?) and throw an event to remember. Give me a theme, dear children, and I will make your wildest dreams come true! Within reason of course…I can’t afford to hire a private circus.

At this point, I don’t do that though. For me, because my kids have very different adoption stories and their adoption days fall in the same week, I choose not to make it an event. I lump it in with Valentine’s Day, which is universally celebrated. This works for our household.

If I am being honest, which I always try to be, I think one of my kids would love to celebrate, while the other probably wouldn’t. In hindsight, I wish their adoption days were further apart so the anniversaries felt more individual and separated. When it happened, I thought it was neat that the days were almost the same. But, with such different circumstances, I find it makes it hard to treat each individually when the anniversaries are so close.

What should you do if you strongly feel that adoption day celebrations, or “gotcha day” celebrations are wrong?

I suppose if you feel this way, you will not celebrate. If you feel that adoption is centered around trauma and is not something to celebrate, you have a right to feel that way. It is okay if you choose not to make the anniversary of your child’s adoption an event in your home. You get to decide what is right for your family.

However, if you choose not to celebrate, please do not shame those who do celebrate.

If you choose to celebrate and throw big parties for the anniversary of your child’s adoption, good for you! I am sure these parties will be memorable for your child for years to come. I would guess that family and friends look forward to these fun celebrations too.

If you celebrate, please don’t shame those who choose not to.

It is important to respect everyone’s opinions, agree or disagree, and not try to make rules about how adoption should or shouldn’t work. There are no one-size-fits-all adoption rules. Every single situation varies from the next situation. What works for one family may not work for another. The adoption community often feels like a close family itself. But since each of us in the community has our own individual experience, it can sometimes be hard to just be supportive of each other without being too judgemental.

What if you are a family that chooses not to celebrate, but someone insists on giving you gifts or acknowledging the occasion anyway? Chances are this person is just so happy about your family expanding through adoption that they feel it is worth celebrating. If you are uncomfortable with that, how can you get them to understand your feelings?

If you are a family that chooses not to celebrate, please let those close to you know if you would feel uncomfortable receiving a reminder or gift on this anniversary. Not everyone understands all the complicated feelings and emotions associated with adoption. Or, as previously stated, they just may have a different perspective than you do. By having a conversation and sharing your point of view, you can try to avoid any conflict.

What if you are a family that doesn’t celebrate, but you are invited to another family’s celebration? If you have strong feelings, it is okay to decline the invitation politely. If you want to attend the celebration do so with true joy, and keep your personal opinions regarding the celebration to yourself.

Attending a “gotcha day” party may make you feel differently about the topic, or it may reaffirm your feelings. Either way, your opinion on the party should not make or break the event for your friends. If it is their day and they choose to celebrate, then celebrate with them or decline the invitation. The party is not a place to debate or discuss if the celebration is a good idea or not.

On the flip side, what if you are a celebrating family, and your friends are not having a party on their child’s “gotcha day” anniversary? Is it okay for you to still do something special for the child or family on their special day?

Honestly, no, it is not. It would be inappropriate to try to celebrate the occasion if the family chooses not to. This is a personal decision and a personal boundary that you should not cross because you have a different opinion. The family made their decision for their own personal reasons, and it is disrespectful and hurtful to disregard their wishes. You may not know all of the circumstances or the reasons behind the decision to keep the day uneventful. You may cause hurt or harm to the family if you choose to disregard their wishes about this.

If you do choose to celebrate, as adoption is becoming more open and talked about, there are a number of places you can find adoption-related gifts. If you are a celebrator of all things adoption, check out this website for ideas and gifts for friends, family, birth family, grandparents, siblings, adoptees, foster parents, and extended family. There are gifts for everyone to celebrate their connection to adoption. There are also “gotcha day” gifts for this special occasion.

While everyone has their own feelings when it comes to adoption day celebrations, there is no right or wrong.

And the other thing to remember is that your opinion may change! You may start off celebrating, and then choose to stop doing so. Or the opposite may happen. You may not celebrate to start, and then you may decide you really want to acknowledge the adoption anniversary. The adoption process is a journey. Sometimes how you feel at one time will not be how you feel at another time. We often compare adoption to a roller coaster of emotions with many ups and downs. The journey does not end with the adoption day finalization. Adoption will always be a part of your life, your story, your journey. How you feel about the journey can change on occasion. One year you may celebrate, and the next feel too overwhelmed to do so. That is also okay! One day you may feel vocal about adoption, and the next feel like processing your journey quietly, introspectively. That is okay!

As a mom who has adopted, I often feel this up and down rollercoaster of emotions. Some days, I am so in love with adoption and how it changed my life that I could sing my praises to every single person I encounter that day. Then, there are other days, the more challenging days, when I can be feeling frustrated with our adoption journey. I sometimes struggle with my son’s behavioral issues—issues that occur because of his childhood drug addiction, abuse, and neglect. Those days, when I am feeling frustrated, I may not want to praise adoption. I may want to vent about the broken system that allowed these early childhood traumas to occur. I may want to selfishly pity our family for dealing with some of these hardships.

And so, with each year, and each anniversary, you may actually feel differently. You may choose to celebrate or not depending on where you are in your personal journey, and how you are processing at the moment. It is not wrong to change the way you feel. Opinions do not have to be concrete and unwavering. We have the option to do things differently depending on our situations.

If you usually celebrate but are choosing to make this year a more personal family-only moment, communicate that with others around you. Being honest about your feelings and communicating them is the only way to ensure the anniversary of your child’s adoption is what you wish it to be.

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